Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Leprosaria. Congolese village located hundreds of miles inland from the provincial capital Matadi and loosely structured upon leper communities that Graham Greene had visited during his travels through the Belgian Congo and what were then the Cameroons. Situated on a tributary of the “great river”—presumably the Congo River—the leprosaria is part mission and part treatment facility for those who suffer not only from Hansen’s disease (leprosy), but also from sicklaemia, tuberculosis, or elephantiasis. Its Roman Catholic church and state-supported hospital symbolize the spiritual and medical work being done to comfort the needy who wander among the squalid rows of two-room brick houses that bake in the noonday sun. Sermons about the existence of God and arguments about evolution occur within sight of gross suffering and human deformity, over which darkness mercifully falls. The central narrative of the novel involves a new hospital that is being built in order better to serve the eight hundred people who drift in and out of the village. The struggle against disease is concurrently a struggle for human justice.

Hidden from the world, the leprosaria suddenly becomes a center of interest after Monsieur Querry arrives. An ex-husband and father, ex-lover, ex-Catholic and ex-architect, Querry abandons Europe for anonymity in a place far removed from civilization. Although he professes to be a “burnt-out case,” no longer...

(The entire section is 585 words.)