Belgium Literature in French

During the period following the First World War, regionalism, which even a few years earlier had found expression in illustrious authors, such as E. Glesener, G. Garnir, H. Krains, L. Delattre, is now in a phase of decline, although still inspiring the novel-river by J. Tousseul (Jean Clarambaux, 1927-1936), so much so that, in 1937, he was officially repudiated by the manifesto of the writers belonging to the Groupe du lundi, who proclaimed their desire to integrate into literature French.

In the years between 1920 and 1950, the narrative is enriched with a series of important contributions. It is difficult to classify that of A. Baillon (1875-1932), whose main works recount, in a mixture of tenderness and provocation, the memories of an existence tormented by obsessions and the progress of madness, of which he describes the terrifying approach. Marie Gevers (1883-1975) dedicated her work to Campine, whose passions and miseries she evokes, in a naturalistic style reminiscent of C. Lemonnier. The period between the two wars is also the time, in Belgium, of the great social and costume frescoes. C. Burniaux (1892-1975) offers a balance of his experiences in Les temps inquiets, while OP Gilbert (1898-1972) evokes social and economic changes in the saga ofBauduin. C. Plisnier (1896-1952), Goncourt prize 1937 for the stories of Faux – passeports, seeks a substitute for faith in political commitment, to which he will return in the last years of his life. Endowed with remarkable psychological penetration, capable of outlining highly effective characters and recreating an atmosphere, Plisnier devoted himself to a merciless analysis of bourgeois hypocrisy and social alienation (Mariages, Meurtres, Mères). On an analogous level must be placed A. Ayguesparse (1900), with his representation of social and political life and the description of bourgeois environments reminiscent of those of Mauriac. The exterminated work of G. Simenon offers the example of a detective novel that tends to a naturalistic and psychological narrative and, at the same time, to the investigation of customs. The effective characterization of the characters, the pregnant rendering of the atmospheres, whatever the specific environment described, together with a simple and direct language, have ensured its great international success. The copious production of F. Hellens (1881-1972) defies any attempt at classification: close to surrealism in Mélusine, inventor of the “fantastic real”,, he also dealt with the social and psychological novel, the exploration of the soul and the subconscious. Although scarcely represented in the surrealist context (R. Poulet, OJ Périer), the Belgian novel nevertheless opens up to the dimension of a philosophical imaginary with the classic and clear prose of Marcel Thiry (1897), whose fantastic and poetic tales (Nouvelles du Grand Possible) are based on the metaphysical obsession of time, which gives the work its internal unity. For Belgium 2003, please check

Among the most recent production, it should be remembered that of Maud Frère (b.1923), in which the theme of the persistence of youth in existence dominates, by M. Pierson-Piérard, dedicated to the problems of women, by L. Dubrau (n. 1904), focused on the difficulties of the couple and family life. F. Walder (b.1906) rediscovers classicism in Saint – Germain, while D. Gillès (b.1919), fierce critic of social and business hypocrisy, attempts the great fresco with the Festival de Salzbourg. If in authors such as JA Lacour, A. Curvers, F. Marceau, there is a scarce renewal of the themes, others, such as F. Mallet-Joris, JG Linze, M. Moreau, D. Rolin, P. Mertens, make an effort, in very personal ways, to embrace the best innovations of modern fiction. The vitality of the fantastic and imaginary genre is testified by authors such as Th. Owen, J. Ray, G. Prévot.

Poetry, which has always known a considerable number of scholars in Belgium, tends instead to individual research and emancipation from “schools”. It is with surrealism that, starting from 1920, the aspiration for renewal is manifested: M. Lecomte, A. Chavée, P. Nougé, L. Scutenaire actively participate in the movement. Henry Michaux (b. 1899), independent surrealist, turns to the absurd, to the subconscious, in a poetry of the absolute, torrential and propitious for linguistic experiments. OJ Périer (1901-1928), classic and sober, or A. Bernier (1902-1969), modern Franciscan in ecstatic communion with nature, authors while interesting, however they do not possess the vastness of resonances and the multiformity of M. Thiry, in whose poetry there is the) and of the most material life experiences, sublimated in a visionary and impressionistic dimension (Statues de la fatigue, Mer de la tranquility). There are also many other authors who try to give a personal contribution to Belgian poetry: R. Goffin, G. Linze, R. Vivier, Ed. Vandercammen, G. Libbrecht, with whom we go from violence to tender melancholy; M. Carême, on the other hand, has chosen tones of a kindness that is sometimes a little affected. With the last generations, poetry often rediscovers tones of neoclassical taste: it is the case, for example, of H. Juin, J. Tordeur, J. Mogin, R. Foulon, L. Wouters.

Finally, the theater experienced, in the years between the two wars, an extremely fruitful phase, despite the considerable indifference of the public towards national production. F. Crommelynck (1885-1970), after a symbolist debut, found his way into a sort of tragic exasperation of human feelings and his taste for excess (Cocu magnifique, Tripes d’or): theater of absolute, his, under the guise of farce, in which the characters rise to universal types. A theater of ideas and of notable technical mastery is that of H. Soumagne (1891-1951; L’autre Messie). But the largest and most varied work is undoubtedly that of M. de Ghelderode (1898-1962). Desecrator of the great myths (Mort du Docteur Faust,Christophe Colomb, Don Juan), he mixes the local color with the truculence of the scenic procedures, which sometimes prefigure the “nouveau théâtre”; or he tries to realize a new vision of the Passion, with an unusual and powerful work (Barabbas). Alongside Pantagleize, which inaugurates a theater of derision of the human condition, there are numerous works characterized by a vigorously Flemish tone, by color, by a brutal comedy (Magie rouge, Farce des ténébreux, Balade du grand macabre), while others are placed on the line of Artaud’s theater of cruelty (Escurial, Sire Halewyn,School of Jesters). Herman Closson (b. 1901), who puts himself in a similar perspective, cultivated the great spectacle (Quatre fils Aymon, Jeu de Han), the demystification of the great heroes (Godefroid de Bouillon, Borgia) or the theme of fading dreams in contact with reality (Passante illuminée, Hélène). After the war, the theater found new impetus: G. Sion (Voyageur de Forceloup), M.-Th. Bodart (And Adam answered), S. Lilar All paths lead to heaven) tackle the problem of faith with works of a certain ambition, while Ch. Bertin (b. 1919) does poetic theater, as does P. Willems (b. 1912), whose works are almost féeries. F. Marceau (b. 1913) gave himself up to demystification and satire, with harsh and buffoonish tones. J. Mogin (b. 1921), with a theater of heroism and the absolute, J. Sigrid, Cl. Spaak, D. Scheinert, J. Louvet ensure a valid generation change.

Belgium Literature in French