On the 20th of July, 1714, in the Spanish colony of Peru, five people descended to eternity, when they fell into an enormous abyss Ironically, as colorful birds sung sweetly nearby , a beautiful scene of snowy mountains, far away, seen, and green vegetation with pretty trees below The noon collapse of the bridge of San Luis Rey, not only killed the poor unfortunates, but maybe important, showed the world, how precious life is An uncommon novel because it tells the reader at the very beginning, the ending Brother Juniper, a curious, tired Franciscan monk, had stopped to rest and saw the horrible, deadly catastrophe, from the road The distant, tiny, hurling bodies, falling quickly from view, doomed, no possible rescueBut unlike others, didn t think how lucky he was he had survived His thoughts though were, why these beings At the mountain, Juniper decides to devote himself to finding out all he can, about the deceased Knocking on every door in the small capital city of Lima, talking with the people, filling many notebooks, writing a long book afterwards, from six years of an exhaustive investigation Nevertheless , can anyone really know another person The locals were greatly shocked, the land where frequent earthquakes bring sudden death, tidal waves, that crush and destroy coastal cities, rampant disease, which decimates the frightened population, occurs too often Did they think the century old , Inca made bridge of vines and twigs, was going to last forever Or maybe that much used ancient artificial structure, linking the towns of Lima and Cuzco, would always be safeAn Act of God, as the lawyers say, changed everyone s perspective A royal old, lonely lady, an orphan girl, a surviving, grieving, twin boy, the uncle of a famous actress, and her sickly son, all perished on the bridge Later the somber Requiem Mass at the Cathedral, in Lima, for the poor victims, with the Archbishop presiding, the Viceroy in attendance, as are all the notable people of the city There is the land of the living and a land of the dead said this book , and the bridge is love..Poignant story that is sad at heart, no happy endings , but asks the question, is life worth living You only, can answer that A new bridge made of stone has been built, where the former legendary one wasSymbol of hope and the indomitable spirit of mankind, will prevail over adversityMay it always be that way. This Beautiful New Edition Features Unpublished Notes For The Novel And Other Illuminating Documentary Material, All Of Which Is Included In A New Afterword By Tappan WilderOn Friday Noon, July The Twentieth 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 WorldBy 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 ConditionThis New Edition Of Wilder S Pulitzer Prize Winning Novel Contains A New Foreword By Russell Banks Gentle Sarcasm Sarcasm Nevertheless It appears to be commonplace among many readers and several film directors to interpret this story as a paean to love based on its oft quoted closingThere is a land of the living and a land of the dead, and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaningRubbish The story is patently sarcastic, gently so to be sure, which is part of its artistry, but sarcastic nonetheless The only examples of love in the story are either obsessive fixation or guilty desire.The Bridge of San Luis Rey is a somewhat elliptical re telling of Shakespeare s King Lear Wilder signals this early on in his paraphrase of Shakespeare s GloucesterAs flies to wanton boys are we to the godsWilderto the gods we are like the flies that the boys kill on a summer dayThe story shares precisely the same theme as that of Lear the intelligibility, or lack of it, of providential justice.The story also shares with Lear a persistent ambivalence about where and how such justice might be perceived Just as Shakespeare hints at, only to dismiss, the possibility of a benign rationality in Lear s madness and Cordelia s death, so Wilder has Brother Juniper searching without result for the divine intention behind six apparently random casualties I include his own.Where Wilder differs radically from Shakespeare is in his consistent sarcasm about his context Spanish American culture, Peruvian colonial administration, the Catholic Church, and every one of his characters Brother Juniper is his first targetIt seemed to Brother Juniper that it was high time for theology to take its place among the exact sciences, and he had long intended putting it there What he had lacked hitherto was a laboratoryHigh comedy or low sarcasm Wilder then makes his opinion on Juniper s project clearEveryone knew that he was working on some sort of memorial of the accident, and everyone was very helpful and misleadingThe narrative which follows, therefore, is meant to be taken tongue in cheek.The Church suffers some of Wilder s wittiest jibes Referencing a work on sewers, he writes that thetreatise on the laws of hydraulics was suppressed by the Inquisition as being too excitingThe Archbishop of Peru, a harmless but ineffectual man, makes his entry assomething in Lima that was wrapped up in yards of violet satin from which protruded a great dropsical head and two fat pearly handsUncle Pio, the likable rogue of the piecehad been reduced for a time to making investigations for the Inquisition, but when he had seen several of his victims led off in hoods he felt that he might be involving himself in an institution whose movements were not evenly predictable Spanish culture is presented by Wilder as a burlesque The Viceroy, for example,had contrived to make exile endurable by building up a ceremonial so complicated that it could only be remembered by a society that had nothing else to think aboutMuch is made of the degradation of the Spanish language from its pristine Castilian under the influence of native Peruvians Only that art originating in the home country was worthy of admiration so thatUncle Pio and Camila Perichole were tormenting themselves in an effort to establish in Peru the standards of the theatres in some heaven whither Calder n had preceded Individual characters are all comically flawed The abbess, who acts as a sort of central employment bureau,was one of those persons who have allowed their lives to be gnawed away because they have fallen in love with an idea several centuries before its appointed appearance in the history of civilizationreferring to her devotion to women s equality The prostitute, actress and aspiring socialite, La Perichole apparently meaning half breed bitch but untranslated by Wilder participates in public ritual by holding acandle in the penitential parades side by side with ladies who had nothing to regret but an outburst of temper and a furtive glance into Descartes Even the victims themselves are treated with an implicit sarcasm The Marquesa and Pepita die just after discovering their misdirected loyalties Esteban, being persuaded to live without his brother, falls to his death the next morning Uncle Pio and Jaime have no sort of conversion at all before they end up in the abyss Not only is there no discernible pattern, there are no narrative implications of their deaths They are all merely dead And Brother Juniper is despised and killed because of his interest in their lives.Thus it seems to me sentimental claptrap to interpret the story as endorsing the redemptive power of love Wilder s various references to love range from the sordid to the inappropriate Why he would then cap his story with praise of an absent virtue is a mystery those who enjoy melodrama will have to explain This is farce not tragedy.Postscript reality imitates fiction Some say that we shall never know, and that to the gods we are like the flies that the boys kill on a summer day, and some say, on the contrary, that the very sparrows do not lose a feather that has not been brushed away by the finger of GodYou might think a book so focused on God and faith would fail to have the desired effect on an atheist like me But, actually, I think the religious factor of this novel is just a small part of something which affects all of us our need to question why things happen When tragedy falls upon our loved ones, or perhaps not even that, perhaps a news story captures our attention of young children involved in a fatal accident, completely in the wrong place at the wrong time when life presents us with such situations as these, it seems it is a common element of human nature to ask that question which has plagued philosophers, priests, historians and scientists for millennia Why.This book begins with the collapse of the San Luis Rey bridge in Peru Brother Juniper witnesses the disaster and watches as five people plummet to their deaths in the gorge below He finds himself wondering why those people at that exact point were chosen to die, what it was about their lives that shaped such a destiny for them We are taken on an emotional journey into the lives of the deceased, exploring questions about life, death, religion, faith and chance Did these five people die because of some grave sin that doomed their souls Or was it something far complicated than thatNow he discovered that secret from which one never quite recovers, that even in the most perfect love one person loves less profoundly than the other There may be two equally good, equally gifted, equally beautiful, but there may never be two that love one another equally wellThis beautifully written novel captures numerous emotions in a very small amount of pages and also gives the reader an interesting view of the ruling classes in Spanish South America at this time 18th century The book can be viewed as several gradually entwining short stories which feature very different lives that end in the same unfortunate way It is quite a painful read, especially when looking at the relationship between Dona Maria and her daughter, the former longing for the latter s love but unsure how to obtain it Knowing the outcome of each tale adds a looming cloud of despair to the stories and makes the characters situations that much tragic.What many see as this book s major weakness and I found to be its greatest strength was the lack of answers to the questions first pondered by Brother Juniper when he witnessed the collapse of the bridge Wilder purposely leaves the ending open for interpretation as to whether these people were the victims of chance or deliberately targeted as part of God s greater plan The only certainty is that, in one way or another, love brought each of those people to that bridge at that exact point And I believe the ambiguity makes it all the powerfulThere is a land of the living and a land of the dead, and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning This is not mere writing This is poetic philosophy.I d heard it was good, but I didn t know what to expect from Thornton Wilder s The Bridge of San Luis Rey For all I knew, it took place somewhere along the Californian coast along with all the other Sans and Santas After all, there is the San Luis Rey Mission in San Diego But no, this is set in Peru Even better I love when a story transports me some place I ve never been before.The concept in a nutshell as explained on Wikipedia It tells the story of several interrelated people who die in the collapse of an Inca rope bridge in Peru, and the events that lead up to their being on the bridge A friar who has witnessed the accident then goes about inquiring into the lives of the victims, seeking some sort of cosmic answer to the question of why each had to die The novel won the Pulitzer Prize in 1928.And well deserved This is not a family saga of epic proportions It s short It s compact It takes a slice or two of life and examines it It does this three times for five people The numbers are only slightly off and the stories don t all focus on one incident, but this is still quite reminiscent of Akira Kurosawa s Rashomon, itself based on two short stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa.The people and their problems are varied and interesting Their choices and why they chose them are made even so by Wilder Maybe this isn t 5 star perfection, but it is damn good. Let me draw a scene for you You are standing at the balcony of a high rise building and looking down at the busy road of the evening hours You spot a fleet of coloured cars, nudging each other with a relaxed urgency, you see little boys in nickers and little girls in frocks tugging their mothers for sweet somethings, you see ebullient couples stealing a kiss while keeping an eye on the pedestrians, you locate the lesser privileged scrapping at the abandoned baskets for respectable leftovers, you see the wanderers leaning on the poles, watching the scene, just like you Now, I pull myself up well within your ear s reach and joining your view, ask you Does anything bind you to them Does anything at all, bind you to any one of them on the road With a little thought, both of us would hiss out,yesAt Level 1, it is the world we live in the air we breathe, the trees we see, the smoke we inhale, the fog we fight they are all the same for us and them At Level 2, it is the labyrinth of emotions we hold close the love we feel, the tears we shed, the impatience we possess, the amusement we harbour they are common in us and them And at Level 3, the highest, we are bound by the truth of Life and Death while on this side of the Life Death Bridge, we are all huddled into the animated and raucous jungle of Life and once we cross over to the other side of this bridge, our dissimilarities, once again merge into the silent ocean of Death But who should tell ushowto cross this bridge whenever we are called upon to There is no easy answer but Wilder tries to give us one in this delicately weaved story of six people When the imposing Bridge of San Luis Rey, breaks on a fateful day, it goes down taking the lives of five random people in its arms This incident shakes no Peruvian native as much as Brother Juniper He is besieged by a strong urge to unearth the reasons behind the choice of victims Why these five Was there anything common in them besides their appointed date, time, place and instrument of deathThe discrepancy between faith and the facts is greater than is generally assumedIn a desire to understand His intentions in a pure state, he sets in motion many interviews, reference sets, neighbourhood versions and historical records to draw concrete evidence about these five people who led largely different lives An Aristocrat also A Mother and Her Help also An Orphan , A War Veteran and His Find also A Brother and A Theatre Personality also A Teacher In the flood of motherly affection and in the muck of orphaned loneliness, in the war of distilled priorities and in the swamp of brotherly abandonment, even in the shadow of vanquished lessons, Brother Juniper gropes for the sky that protected these five souls till it burst open on the call of Death.It is not clear if Wilder wished to reinforce any spiritual truth or religious dogma but he certainly established an inspiring line of beauty in ordinary things, which intersperses a futile life with smoked humor and infectious spunk He lets the society condemn Brother Juniper s finding as farcical and baseless but also renders him a certain unquestionable dignity that keeps the curious flame lit under the darkest clouds of doubts and fallacy.After stroking the picture of each of the five victims with their respective color brushes for a laborious six years, Brother Juniper is sombre at last when the final picture exhibits the masterstroke, merging all the colors into a single shadeThere is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning Seeing as I study spanish, I loved the hispanic undertones to this book and enjoyed translating snippets from Castilian into English Not only this, but there was a strong Catholic undercurrent in the novel, no doubt a consequence of the denomination s popularity in the hispanic world, and this made for enjoyable analysing The novel is told by means of three separate stories, each one sending with the same event the bridge It s a beautiful representation of human community and the connections which exist between us Oh, even if you don t want to read the whole thing, I urge you to find the book and READ THE LAST PAGE Some say that we shall never know, and that to the gods we are like the flies that the boys kill on a summer day, and some say, on the contrary, that the very sparrows do not lose a feather that has not been brushed away by the finger of God p.12 Without the batting of an eye, Thorntorn Wilder s presents his short story with the dilemma of the nature of the divine will and the resultant conflict between fate and randomness, faith and reason, meaning and absurdity.Set in the eighteenth century in Per ,The Bridge of San Luis Reyfocuses on the collapse of the mentioned ancestral bridge built during the Inka hegemony that unites the capital of Lima with the merchant town of Cuzco, taking away the lives of five people who happened to be crossing the bridge at the precise moment of the fatal accidentEither we live by accident and die by accident, or we live by plan and die by plan p.9 The latent question throbbing behind the scene being whether the hand of God had some doing in the tragedy leads Brother Juniper to doubt and to investigate the five deceased searching for some logical pattern in their deaths while forgetting that the act of believing involves the acceptance of the senseless, which eventually proves catastrophic for the inquiring Brother.TheMarquesa de Montemayor pours her heart writing emotional letters overflowing with lyricism to her daughter Clara, who is married in Spain and who can t abide her mother, proclaiming her almost obsessive motherly love and her need to feel accepted instead of scorned by her only daughterPepita , the Marquesa s assistant, who was raised by the Abbess in the Convent of Santa Mar a Rosa de las Rosas, selflessly offers her mistress faithful devotion but Pepita s continuous efforts pass unnoticed by the miserable Marquesa Manuel and Esteban are telepathic twins who were left at the same Convent of Santa Mar a Rosa de la Rosas as infants who become scribes Esteban worships his brother and finds himself in agony when he discovers the secret love Manuel nurtures for Camila Perochile, a famous actress, which threatens the brother s uncommonly close relationship, making him aware that Manuel s fraternal love is less profound than his Esteban s remorse increases when his beloved brother cuts his knee with a piece of metal and dies from a massive infection, leaving Esteban devastated and without an aim in life Uncle P o is a self made man confidant, manager and protector of the aforesaid actress who launches her stellar popularity in the theaters of Lima After having a romantic relationship with the Viceroy of Per , which produces three children, Camila decides to stop acting in order to become a true lady After Uncle P o s failed attempt to convince her to return to the stage, he persuades her to allow her only son to accompany him in order to be trained for a year.When these apparently unrelated people cross the bridge on the fateful Friday on July the twentieth, they are dragged down and irremediably engulfed like insignificant ants by the waters of the river alongside the bridge of San Lu s Rey, taking their lives, their dreams and their new resolutions with it What force propelled them to be walking across the bridge at the particular instant of the misfortune Were they selected by some Divine Providence for some inscrutable purpose Beware though Because those who survive might obtain less wisdom, might live less intensely than those predestined or fortuitously condemned to death, as Brother Juniper reflects after tragedy strikesEverybody knows that in the world we do nothing but feed our wills Why perpetuate this legend of selflessness Why keep this thing alive, this rumour of disinterestedness The five deceased characters in Wilder s story have the commonality of sharing loneliness, heartbreak and despair Maybe the key to all the unanswerable questions lays there Maybe the rejected are in need to cross an allegorical bridge to find love and solace, either in the world of the living or in the world of the dead Maybe insignificant humans are part of an indecipherable greater scheme of the universe Maybe nothing is scripted and capricious randomness rules the world But even in the most absurd of scenarios, erring humans will need to cross the bridge of fear and find the courage to love some time or another And Love, my friend, might be the one and only answerEven memory is not necessary for love There is a land of the living and a land of the dead, and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning p.124 This is a classic novel that has been on my radar simply because it is on many must read lists A Pulitzer Prize winning best seller that has been made into 3 movies and has occasionally been an influence on other novels, I figured this was a book I should eventually get to.I am settling on 3.5 out of 5 stars Not sure if I should round up or round down.The idea was interesting a monk trying to determine if there is scientific mathmatical evidence as to why certain people die in tragedies over others This leads to three intertwined backstories that all end in the collapse of the bridge of San Luis Rey Such a cool concept, it was enough to keep me interested to see what he figures out The best part for me was the writing I like Wilder s writing style and storytelling It went a long way towards elevating my rating of this book.My biggest criticism is the stories themselves They just really weren t all that interesting to me In fact, after I was done, I went to find a synopsis of the book on Wikipedia to see if I had missed anything I had not What I read and remembered is exactly what Wikipedia said So, perhaps this was interesting to people living at the time it was released Sales would seem to indicate so.I recommend this book if you like classics or need to complete a must read list But, I think I have just talked myself into rounding down. The Bridge of San Luis Rey is a beautifully written book full of eternal questions.If there were any plan in the universe at all, if there were any pattern in a human life, surely it could be discovered mysteriously latent in those lives so suddenly cut off Either we live by accident and die by accident, or we live by plan and die by plan And on that instant Brother Juniper made the resolve to inquire into the secret lives of those five persons, that moment falling through the air, and to surprise the reason of their taking off.There are so many unrelated people in the world, so many different fates and then unexpectedly some calamity may bring fates together in the most tragic way Is it a dire misfortune or God s Divine Providence There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning Crossing so many bridges during our life we inexorably approach the bridge that will collapse under our feet.
Thornton Niven Wilder was an American playwright and novelist He received three Pulitzer Prizes, one for his novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey and two for his plays Our Town and The Skin of Our Teeth, and a National Book Award for his novel The Eighth Day.For see
- 160 pages
- The Bridge of San Luis Rey
- Thornton Wilder
- 13 June 2019 Thornton Wilder