A Burnt-Out Case, by Graham Greene:
“Can you cure me?”
“Perhaps your mutilations haven’t gone far enough yet. When a man comes here too late the disease has to burn itself out.”
The idea, even the terminology, must have been irresistible to Graham Greene. When leprosy has run its course, the “burnt-out case” has no fingers and toes, no human feelings or desires, no wish to leave the leprosery. He is no longer a leper, but this merely means that he has lost his last title to individuality. Now, he is nothing.
Except for The Quiet American and the Entertainments, the whole of Mr. Greene’s work can be seen as a progression to this point, with the central characters —to write “heroes” would be sadly out of place—more and more nearly burnt-out in each succeeding novel. The onset of mutilation, the first inroads of atrophy can be diagnosed in early books like England Made Me. With Scobie, in The Heart of the Matter, feeling has the desperate acuteness of impending loss. The End of the Affair is a cameo of the final mutilation. Querry, the famous architect fleeing his fame in this latest book, is as near to being utterly burnt out as the leading figure in a novel can be.