Greene on A Burnt-Out Case:
I went to Belgian Congo in January 1959 with a new novel already beginning to form in my head by way of a situation -- a stranger who turns up in a remote leper settlement for no apparent reason...Never had a novel proved more recalcitrant or more depressing. The reader had only to endure the company of the burnt-out character called in the novel Querry for a few hours' reading, but the author had to live with him and in him for eighteen months.
Success is more dangerous than failure (the ripples break over a wider coast line), and The Heart of the Matter was a success in the great vulgar sense of that term. There must have been something corrupt there, for the book appealed too often to weak elements in its readers. Never had I received so many letters from strangers -- perhaps the majority of them from women and priests. At a stroke I found myself regarded as a Catholic author in England, Europe and America -- the last title to which I had ever aspired.
...This account may seem cynical and unfeeling, but in the years between The Heart of the Matter and The End of the Affair I felt myself used and exhausted by the victims of religion. The vision of faith as untroubled sea was lost for ever; faith was more like a tempest in which the lucky were engulfed and lost, and the unfortunate survived to be flung battered and bleeding on the shore. A better man could have found a life's work on the margin of that cruel sea, but my own course of life gave me no confidence in any aid I might proffer. I had no apostolic mission, and the cries for spiritual assistance maddened me because of my impotence. What was the Church for but to aid these sufferers? What was the priesthood for? I was like a man without medical knowledge in a village struck with plague. It was in those years, I think, that Querry was born, and Father Thomas too. He had often sat in that chair of mine, and he had worn many faces.
from Ways of Escape, pp.215-218
© Melody Yiu
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