Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Bridge of San Luis Rey (by Thornton Wilder)

I picked this up off of Ian's bookshelves, looking for something to read. It's a slim volume, but it won Wilder a Pulitzer Prize, and I'd definitely heard of it. It's not on my Radcliffe list (only two books to go on that one) but I'm sure it's on one of the others. Finding the premise intriguing, I began reading it.

It's a lovely little gem of a book, a meditation on fate and love and life. The premise is that a bridge (the titular bridge, of course) collapses, and five people die. A priest tries to prove, through this event, that the reason was divine intervention, thereby proving that there is a God. I'm not explaining it well, but I don't want to give anything away. I'll just say that it's a quick read, but a profound and very beautiful one. I'd love to teach this novel one of these days.

(ETA: I went to look up Wilder to see if he is an American author who might fit into a Great American Novels class. I hadn't recognized the name, but he is the same American author and playwright who wrote Our Town. And yet he captured the world of Lima, Peru, in such an authentic way! I was sure he was Spanish somehow, but he's from Wisconsin. Wow.)

"He divided the inhabitants of this world into two groups, into those who had loved and those who had not. It was a horrible aristocracy, apparently, for those who had no capacity for love (or rather for suffering in love) could not be said to be alive and certainly would not live again after their death. They were a kind of straw population, filling the world with their meaningless laughter and tears an chatter and disappearing still loveable and vain into thin air." (Page 112)

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