martes, 1 de junio de 2010

A Burnt-Out Case by Graham Greene

Monsieur Querry never reveals his Christian name. Perhaps it’s because he doesn’t want to admit his Christianity. Perhaps he possesses it, but resists it. Perhaps...

Monsieur Querry is the central character in Graham Greene’s A Burnt-Out Case. The novel examines the relationship between motivation and religious belief and contrasts this with the gulf between personal experience and its interpretation by others. A significant gap emerges, a gap that ascribes status on the one hand or infamy on the other, depending on who might witness and later interpret events.

Querry is an architect, and a very famous and successful one. When he arrives up the river at a leprosy hospital in Central Africa, however, no-one knows this. He is perhaps just another European running away from something and arriving ahead of a chase, perhaps to depart again just as quickly when the exigencies of daily life crowd out the self-serving romance of doing good. He meets Dr Colin who has devoted his life - and that of his wife! – to his fight against the disease. His hospital is in tatters/ He has little equipment and fewer resources, and his wife is dead. He works, however, every waking minute to serve the needs of his leper patients. There are cures. If only he had the means.

Querry, the Querrry, the famous architect, reinvents himself as a builder to realise a new hospital. So in this remote African backwater, a person who has slogged through life apparently to achieve little is partnered by a celebrity who comes with nothing, asks nothing, but can make things happen.

Deo Gratias is a leper. He has lost all of his digits from both hands and feet. He is totally stumped. He is also regularly in pain, driven mad by the nervous reaction to his condition. One night he goes missing. A community member goes off in search and finds him semi-submerged in a pool. Might he be in danger of drowning? He stays with Deo Gratias until daylight and thus save a limited life. Was this Christian charity? Was it something more basic? Were there any motives whatsoever? Or perhaps was it a miracle?

To judge on the latter, why not consult with the Fathers in the Mission, or the nuns in the convent? Why not try the opinion of a devout believer, someone like Rycker? He lives along the river with his wife, Marie. He is considerably older than her. His demands on life are within the confines of the box, and the box has the instructions printed on the outside. Marie’s demands on life have yet to locate the box. Querry spends some time talking to him, and then to her, and then him, and then her again... Rycker likes a drink. So does Querry.

Arguably it is a miracle that the hospital gets built at all. Thus it’s also a story, and Parkinson arrives in its pursuit. The Querry has been located and an apparently unscrupulous paparazzo arrives via the fastest available canoe to secure the scoop. He writes for the highest bidder and is well syndicated. He’s a mercenary, an opportunist. Querry gives him the interview he requests. The resulting published piece, only a first instalment, is surprisingly supportive.
Querry, meanwhile, has been supportive of Marie Rycker in a time of personal challenge.

For Dr Colin at the leproserie, a burnt-out case is a leper who has lost everything that can be lost before a cure takes hold. For more than a decade, perhaps, the leprosy hospital has been a place where neither the road not the river goes any further.

This Graham Greene contrasts the selfishness of professed religious conformity with the improvisation born of a humanism that dare not call itself Christian. From outside, the exploits of both approaches only mean something when they are interpreted and, in this respect, any beauty is firmly rooted in the combined prejudice and assumption of the beholder. And when those interpretations invent something that never happened, or translate the ordinary into something transcendental that was never intended, then it is by these falsely recorded and misunderstood consequences that we become known. A Burnt-Out Case is undoubtedly a masterpiece.

View the book on amazon
A Burnt-out Case (Vintage Classics)

1 comentario:

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