Fri, 6 January 2023
Five people fall to their deaths when a bridge collapses in Peru. Can Brother Juniper discover the reason that these five individuals had to die? Thornton Wilder, today on The Classic Tales Podcast.
Welcome to Season 17 of The Classic Tales Podcast. Thank you for listening.
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Thornton Wilder won two Pulitzer Prizes: one for the novel we’ll begin today: The Bridge of San Luis Rey, and another for his play: Our Town.
In The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Brother Juniper witnesses the tragedy of five people falling to their deaths when a bridge collapses in Peru. He takes it upon himself to study the lives of those who fell in the accident, in an effort to figure out why these five people had to die.
In 1998, the book was selected by the American Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of the twentieth century.
It has also been hinted that this book is the progenitor of the modern-day disaster epic, where a single disaster intertwines the lives of the victims, whose previous histories are then explored through a series of flashbacks.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair quoted the final words of the book in a memorial service for the victims of the September 11th attacks. Nine days after the attacks, he read:
"A witness to the deaths, wanting to make sense of them and explain the ways of God to his fellow human beings, examined the lives of the people who died, and these words were said by someone who knew the victims, and who had been through the many emotions, and the many stages, of bereavement and loss.
"But soon we will die, and all memories of those five will have left earth, and we ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even 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."
And now, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Part 1 of 3, by Thornton Wilder