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A Guy's Moleskine Notebook

Thoughts and reflections on works of fiction and literature. Pondering of life through pictures and words. Babbling about gay rights. Travelogues and anecdotes.

  • [1] Annie Proulx: Brokeback Mountain
  • [2] Arthur Golden: Memoirs of a Geisha
  • [3] Yu Hua: To Live
  • [4] Alan Hollinghurst: The Line of Beauty
  • [5] Colm Toibin: The Master
  • [6] Carlos Ruiz Zafon: The Shadow of the Wind
  • [7] William James: The Varieties of Religious Experience
  • [8] Charles Higham: The Civilization of Angkor
  • [9] Graham Greene: A Burnt-Out Case
  • [10] Dai Sijie: Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch
  • [11] Alan Hollinghurst: The Swimming-Pool Library
  • [12] Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita
  • [13] Colm Toibin: The Blackwater Lightship
  • [14] Alan Hollinghurst: The Folding Star
  • [15] Ross King: Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling
  • [16] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Brothers Karamazov
  • [17] Jonathan Franzen: The Corrections
  • [18] Colm Toibin: The Story of the Night
  • [19] John Banville: Shroud
  • [20] Leo Tolstoy: Resurrection
  • [21] Peter Hessler: River Town, Two Years on the Yangtze
  • [22] Ian McEwan: The Atonement
  • [24] Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Love in the Time of Cholera
  • [25] Ignacio Padilla: Shadow without a Name
  • [26] Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose
  • [27] Richard Russo: Straight Man
  • [28] Fyodor Dostoevsky: Notes from Underground
  • [29] Alan Hollinghurst: The Spell
  • [30] Hermann Broch: The Death of Virgil
  • [31] James Baldwin: Giovanni's Room
  • [32] Ken Kesey: One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • [33] Xingjian Gao: One Man's Bible
  • [34] C. Jay Cox: Latter Days
  • [35] Harper Lee: To Kill A Mockingbird
  • [36] William Shakespeare: The Taming of the Shrew
  • [37] Daniel A. Helminiak: What The Bible Really Says about Homosexuality
  • [38] James Baldwin: Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone
  • [39] Kenji Yoshino: Covering - The Hidden Assault of Civil Rights
  • [40] Italo Calvino: If, On a Winter's Night A Traveler
  • [41] Arthur Phillips: The Egyptologist
  • [42] George Orwell: 1984
  • [43] Michael Warner: The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and Ethics of Queer Life
  • [44] Andrew Sullivan: Virtually Normal
  • [45] Henry James: The Wings of the Dove
  • [46] Jose Saramago: Blindness
  • [47] Umberto Eco: The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
  • [48] Dan Brown: Da Vinci Code
  • [49] Kazuo Ishiguro: Never Let Me Go
  • [50] Ken Follett: The Pillars of Earth
  • [51] Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace
  • [52] Michael Thomas Ford: Alec Baldwin Doesn't Like Me
  • [53] Jonathan Franzen: How To Be Alone
  • [54] Jonathan Lethem: The Fortress of Solitude
  • [55] Matthew Pearl: The Dante Club
  • [56] Zadie Smith: White Teeth
  • [57] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Double
  • [58] Jose Saramago: The Double
  • [59] Andrew Holleran: Dancer from the Dance
  • [60] Heinrich von Kleist: The Marquise of O & Other Stories
  • [61] Andrew Holleran: In September, the Light Changes
  • [62] Tom Perrotta: Little Children
  • January 28, 2006


    [9] A Burnt-Out Case - Graham Greene

    Graham Greene often strikes readers as being a prolific writer of genre novels. In an unreaderly time, it's amazing that his works still arouse responses of curiosity, attention, and debate to an extent that is deeper than what entertainment novels usually ensue. Reflecting the style of many other works, Greene invests in A Burnt-Out Case a moral dilemma that gives it an edge of seriousness and a whiff of suspense. Combining his rich travel experience with a style of the utmost calm, lucidity and simplicity, A BURNT-OUT CASE concerns a man who escapes life and his successful career as an architect and seeks refuge in a Congo leproserie.

    Querry is emotionally marooned - he suffers from nothing and loses touch with love, sentiment, and suffering. Humanity has no grabble on him. He is diagnosed as the mental equivalent of a burnt-out leprosy case, a leper who has undergone mutilation before he can be cured. Querry arrives anonymously and discreetly at the village looking for meaning in life. He might have lost his capacity to love but his scruple retains. The ex-architect has plunged to the bottom of his life (to the point of no return) when he realizes for his entire life he has not loved. The remorse in him motivates to come in terms with suffering, for suffering is the only measure one has to put himself in touch with the whole human condition.

    A Burnt-Out Case strives to make a daring connection between failure to love and religious hypocrisy. Querry realizes his lack of love and he cannot even pretend that what he has been feeling in life is love. The motives for work, life, or anything, fail him and the ultimate crisis settles in: his life has been deprived of meaning. The moment he perceives the emptiness he has been lifted off the pit and is spurred toward love and good deeds. What Greene strives to convey is that one who has found love no longer has to elaborate that love to others. The novel subtly ridicules the absurdity in which Christianity would always presume and appropriate man's love and attribute man's good deeds to Christian love. So Christianity takes credit for all the good fruits and leave behind the evil doings. This blunt denial of any good that exists outside of Christian faith engenders hypocrisy.

    A Burnt-Out Case therefore affords an audacious (but valid) claim that is possible for a man of intelligence, modesty, honesty, and remorse to make his life without a god. The claim adumbrates a borderline existentialist tenet, which believes in an individualism that is free from any social and external influence in order to achieve autonomous decision-making in life and ultimately giving a tight grip on one's fate. The beauty of the novel lies in the fact that it does man's volition justice through Querry's transformation to love labor. The novel neither scorns Christianity nor the deeds impelled by the religious faith, but it expounds love that is purely humane and love that is not institutionalized or labeled.

    The struggle between hypocrisy and pure love becomes very evident as the underlying pride, deceit, and bitterness culminate in a riotous violence that jolts the quiet village. The novel exposes what most religious people do not wish to confront: the re-examination, and possibly the renewal of love at the painfully unbearable realization of the cruel truth that they do not love despite all the scrupulous church-going and the lip worship. For such philosophical terrain the novel seeks to tackle, Graham Greene had accomplished more than an entertainment novel.


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