The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
The Bridge of San Luis Rey was published in 1927 and Wilder’s 2nd novel. It won him the 1928 Pulitzer Prize and is highly acclaimed the world over. Here is the blurb from GoodReads:
“On Friday noon, July the twentieth, 1714, the finest bridge in all Peru broke and precipitated five travelers into the gulf below.” With this celebrated sentence Thornton Wilder begins The Bridge of San Luis Rey, one of the towering achievements in American fiction and a novel read throughout the world. By chance, a monk witnesses the tragedy. Brother Juniper then embarks on a quest to prove that it was divine intervention rather than chance that led to the deaths of those who perished in the tragedy. His search leads to his own death — and to the author’s timeless investigation into the nature of love and the meaning of the human condition.”
According to Wikipedia on writing this novel Thornton Wilder said that he was posing a question: “Is there a direction and meaning in lives beyond the individual’s own will?” In the same article there’s an impressive list of novels that themselves were influenced by or make reference to this novel:
- This book was cited by John Hersey as a direct inspiration for his nonfiction work Hiroshima (1946).
- Qui non riposano, a 1945 novel by Indro Montanelli takes inspiration from the novel.
- David Mitchell’s novel, Cloud Atlas, echoes the story in many ways, most explicitly through the character Luisa Rey.
- Ayn Rand references the theme in Atlas Shrugged, her epic of a fictional USA’s decline into an impoverished kleptocracy. In the aftermath of a disastrous collision in a railroad tunnel, she highlights train passengers who, in one way or another, promoted the moral climate that made the accident likely.
- The book is mentioned in passing by a character in The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands, the third book in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series.
Interesting, right? I’m very intrigued by this book! The bridge itself is based on the great Inca road suspension bridge across the Apurímac River, erected around 1350, still in use in 1864, and dilapidated but still hanging in 1890.
Anyone read this book? Thoughts?