This Bread I Break
This bread I break was once the oat,
This wine upon a foreign tree
Plunged in its fruit;
Man in the day or wind at night
Laid the crops low, broke the grape’s joy.
From This Bread I Break by Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)
I took the title of my novel Broke the Grape’s Joy from the first stanza of this poem. Why? Well, I wanted a poetic title, and as I’ve always adored Thomas’s poetry – so profound, lyrical, and charged with symbolism – I went straight to the poet’s work and soon stumbled upon this appropriately vinous quotation. The trio of words Broke, Grape’s and Joy seemed entirely apt, especially in reference to my central character, Jeanne, a vine grower on the brink of bankruptcy, struggling with depression and bereavement. Thomas’s central theme, I think, examines the seemingly timeless question: do we have free will or are we governed by natural or supernatural forces? Do we exist in a coldly indifferent, deterministic universe? Or can we become masters or our own destinies? I, like the main character, take a fairly agnostic position on such questions as the belief in the afterlife, the spirit world or parallel universes… But (as writers of fiction surely must) I keep an open mind. As Jeanne Valeix says “I suppose I believe that there are many things in the world that we can’t explain or understand – and perhaps we never shall.” What do you think?