Literature, drama and theater in the Dutch language
From the Middle Ages there are songs (among other things in the Antwerp songbook, published 1544), ballads, knight novels, fables, animal poetry, legends, dramas, farces, mystery games, miracle games and didactic literature preserved. Culture flourished during this time, mainly in the southern parts of the language area. From there, literary forms were developed from around 1170 in Roman and Dutch territory to the high German cultural field. Anonymous works include the epic “Renout van Montalbaen” and the story of “Karel and Elegast”, which revolves around Karl the Great. More polite are the British-Celtic fairy tale-inspired novels “Walewein” and “Ferguut”, where, in addition to the hero worship, one finds an approach to women worship. In the “Floris and Blancefloer” based on Eastern fairy tale, love plays the leading role.
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Literature and drama flourished during the 13th and 13th centuries – first in the County of Flanders, later in the Duchy of Brabant. Flemish is the adaptation of the theme of the fox “Reinaert” which is considered to be the most gifted and spiritual retelling of the fabric in Europe – a parody of the Hovian knight novel and a proof of the awakening bourgeois revolt against the nobility. After some traditional hero novels, Jacob van Maerlant gathered in “Der naturen bloeme” (“The flower of nature”, c. 1266) his knowledge of plants, animals and history for the eager new bourgeoisie. In the latter half of the 13th century, Brabant assumed the leading role. In the field of mysticism, the nun Hadewych and the monk Jan van Ruusbroec appeared. Jan van Boendale wrote about 1327 a chronicle of brabant heroic deeds.
Around 1250, in Flanders, Europe’s oldest profane drama, the Abele Games, emerged. After such a haughty drama, a father’s was played. The Dutch 13th century Fathers are the oldest purely comic dramas in European literature after ancient burlesque satirical plays. Of a series of seven mystery games about “Mary’s joy” (“Bliscappen van onser women”), two are preserved. They were erected in the 1440’s on the Brussels City Hall square. The old game of Envar (“Elckerlijc”, c. 1480) is an allegorical morality. Mary’s mercy is the theme in the legend “Beatrijs” and in the miracle play “Mariken from Nieumeghen”.
During the 15th century transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, the rhetoric chambers (Rederijkerskamers) played a prominent cultural role. One competed here in literary craftsmanship. The chambers were constructed as craft cabinets. Large parties were organized (country jewels) where the chambers of the various cities played theater and declaimed. Prizes were awarded for dramatic performances. In the 16th century, the design world of the Renaissance was introduced by the Antwerp junker Jan van der Noot following Ronsard’s role model. The linguistic and cultural sense of cohesion that emerged in the low seas by the government of the Burgundian dukes culminated in the official Bible translation of the General States (1637), for which the translators were taken from all angles of the language area.
By this time, the religious wars had already destroyed political unity. Since the Spanish conquered Antwerp in 1585, artisans, traders and cultural carriers flocked in large numbers to the liberated areas in the north, and Amsterdam took over Antwerp’s role as a trading metropolis and cultural center.
Immigration from the south contributed to the North Dutch golden age. Many of the great northern Dutch had southern outbreak, e.g. Joost van den Vondel and Constantijn Huygens. The artist Carel van Mander from Meulebeke in the south settled in Haarlem. In his famous “Schilder-boec” (“The painters’ book”, 1604) he tells about the new Dutch and German painters. While the northern Netherlands experienced its greatest cultural heyday, the southern provinces for centuries, under Spanish, Austrian and French rule, led a culturally thinning existence without significant writers.
After the political reunification with the Netherlands failed and the independent state of Belgium proclaimed in 1830, a Flemish movement emerged under the leadership of Jan Frans Willems, Jan Baptist David and Ferdinand Augustijn Snellaert. Among the poets of this period are Karel Lodewijk Ledeganck and Prudens van Duyse. Hendrik Conscience evoked in historical novels Flanders’ brilliant medieval history, when French knights were defeated by Flemish citizens. Anton Bergmann and sisters Rosalie and Virginie Loveling wrote realistic everyday depictions. Priest Guido Gezelle praised unadulterated West Flemish in a reminiscent of Fröding’s musical lyrical beauty of nature as an expression of God’s creative power and love. A new fire soul got the Flemish movement in the young Albrecht Rodenbach, who also advocated for a fairer society. The journalist Emmanuel de Bom, the naturalist Cyriel Buysse, the Catholic poet Prosper van Langendonck and the essayist August Vermeylen gathered around the nineties journal Van Nu en Strax (‘Present and Future’). In “Kritiek der Vlaamsche movement” (“Criticism against the Flemish Movement”, 1895) Vermeylen urges Flemish people not to become provincial but to be Flemish in order to become Europeans. Flemish literature again reached international level with the poet Karel van de Woestijne, the prose epics Stijn Streuvels, Herman Teirlinck and Cyriel Buysse.
The revival of Dutch-language drama since 1850 followed the European romantic, realistic, naturalistic and expressionist trends. The new century’s expressionist poetry grouped around 1920 around the journal Ruimte (‘Space’), with Wies Moens, Marnix Gijsen and Gaston Burssens. Expressionism and Dadaism’s form experiment found an enthusiastic, talented and musically playful representative in lyricist Paul van Ostaijen. The new realities of the post-war period, propagated in the magazine Forum, were expressed in the southern part of the language area by Willem Elsschot, Maurice Roelants, Marnix Gijsen and Gerard Walschap. Outside the circle also stood abroad popular Felix Timmermans, who created the template image of the deeply Catholic Flemish countryside with its joy of life and its people life à la Breughel.
The time after the Second World War meant a literary renewal of both form and content. They revolted against bourgeois values and ideals, which did not keep pace during the phases of war. The horizon widened; Marnix Gijsen, during the war cultural ambassador in the USA, described his upbringing in Flanders and his encounter with the American lifestyle, Piet van Aken wrote socially engaged novels and Johan Daisne and Hubert Lampo introduced the magical realism. The international Cobra group’s ideas were further advanced in the Flemish fifties’ magazine Tijd en Mens with lyricists and prose artists such as Louis Paul Boon, Hugo Claus, Remy van de Kerckhove, Albert Bontridder, Ban Cami and Marcel Wauters. In their work you find the same revolt against the traditional clichés of literature as in the artists of Cobra. The drama was also renewed; Koninklijke Vlaamse Schouwburg in Brussels, Koninklijke Nederlandse Schouwburg and Reizend Volkstheater in Antwerp as well as Nederlands Toneel in Ghent have both international and domestic repertoire. Belgium’s greatest and most productive playwright in modern times is Hugo Claus, who was also noted as a prose writer. In the latter group is also noted experimental Ivo Michiels and anarchist Louis Paul Boon. Social critics and mentality critics include Ward Ruyslinck, Jef Geeraerts and Jos Vandeloo. In the 1970’s, Walter van den Broeck appeared with plays on, among other things. conditions on the factory floor. Monika van Paemel represented the 1980’s “angry young women”.
Belgium’s Flemish writers already have many readers in their own country as they share languages with close to 2/3 of the country’s population of 11 million. In addition, almost 17 million Dutch come north of the border.
The plethora of middle-aged and younger writers a decade into the 21st century is extensive and many of them have reached large readership. Kristien Hemmerechts (born 1955), professor of English in Brussels, often populates his feminist-oriented, sexually outspoken and provocative novels with lost and guilt-ridden characters. Herman Brusselmans (born 1957) from Ghent in the Generation X group with cynical and nihilistic everyday depictions likes to appear in the media and has gained great popularity, especially among the younger ones. It also has Tom Lanoye (born 1958) from the same group who, in his realistic prose, benefits from popular culture, not least comics. The often award-winning Erwin Mortier (born 1965), also he realist, can recall Hugo Claus but has created his own linguistic world.
Postmodernist Peter Verhelst (born 1967) from Bruges is a lyricist, playwright and epic. Stefan Brijs (born 1969) is involved in the magically realistic and Dimitri Verhulst (born 1972) for current social problems – his breakthrough book attracts in an asylum center. In addition to novels, Saskia de Coster (born 1976) writes regularly in the newspaper De Standaard and is a visual artist. The year-old Annelies Verbeke (born 1976), appreciated for her bizarre and absurd realism, broke through with “Sleep!” (2003), which is about a sleepless hiker in the city.
At the Antwerp Book Fair, the vital Flemish literature is exposed annually and in the same city there is a lively center for Flemish literature, Letterenhuis.
Literature, drama and theater in the French language
French-speaking Belgian writers carry on the heritage of two cultures: the Flemish and the French. The mythical feature of the former is found in many of them. Belgium’s first major prose poem “La Légende d’Uylenspiegel et de Lamme Goedzak” (1867; “Ulenspiegel and Lamme Goedzak”) by Charles De Coster is based on a Flemish tale. But while several writers, since Belgium became independent, sought to assert their own character, others wanted to escape what they regarded as provincialism. In the 1880’s, some young talented poets, including Albert Giraud and Iwan Gilkin, the magazine La Jeune Belgique, in which they defended “art for the sake of art”. Symbolism got a linguistic tube in the magazine La Wallonie, published by Albert Mockel. Among the symbolists are Max Elskamp, Georges Rodenbach, Émile Verhaeren and, above all, Maurice Maeterlinck, which was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1911. One of the most peculiar opus of symbolism is “Serres chaudes” (“Greenhouse”) published by Maeterlinck in 1889. The same year his drama “La princesse Maleine” came. Maeterlinck and Charles Van Lerberghe came to be of great importance to contemporary drama writers.
The foreground of naturalism is Camille Lemonnier, whose novel “Un mâle” (1881; “A Man”) made great success. Naturalists include Georges Eekhoud, who in his novels depicts the Belgian countryside. In the 1920’s a so-called workers’ literature represented by Constant Malva, Jean Tousseul and Francis André emerged.
The Academy of French Literature was founded in 1921. About the same time, the first surrealist manifesto, signed by Paul Nougé and Camille Goemans, spread. They wanted to mark their independence from French literature. Marcel Lecomte, one of the most original poets of this time, went his own way. Henri Michaux left Belgium and settled in Paris. His poems about the absurd and unconscious have had a great influence on modern poetry. As a playwright, Fernand Crommelynck achieved great success with his tragic father’s “Le cocu magnifique” (‘He Who Wished to Be Deceived’, 1920). Michel de Ghelderode, with his expressionist dramas, has greatly influenced the development of the avant-garde theater in Europe. Other playwrights are Henri Soumagne, Suzanne Lilar and Herman Closson. The latter often draws inspiration from the Flemish stories.
With Charles Plisnier as the initiator, many writers wrote in 1937 under “Le manifesto du groupe du lundi” (“The Manifesto of the Monday Group”), in which they renounced regionalism and expressed their desire to approach French literature. It was considered a great victory when Plisnier’s novel “Faux-passports” (1937; “On a false passport”) was awarded the Goncourt Prize that year. Georges Simenon, who in addition to his detective stories also wrote numerous psychological novels, also had great success.
Beatrix Beck was awarded the Goncourt Prize in 1952 for his novel on impossible love “Léon Morin, prêtre” (“Leon Morin, priest”). Félicien Marceau received the same award for the novel “Créezy” (1969). A true pursuit of renewal is characterized by writers such as Dominique Rolin, Pierre Mertens and Françoise Mallet-Joris. In the 1980’s, Jean-Philippe Toussaint broke through with his absurdly humorous novels about visibly banal subjects. One of the most notable French-speaking writers in the early 2000’s is the cosmopolitan Amélie Nothomb.
For a long time now, the puppet theater occupies a prominent place, especially through Le Théâtre Perruchet in Brussels and Les Marionnettes Liégeoises in Liège. Le Théâtre Poème in Brussels has had a great influence on Belgian cultural life. In children’s literature, the main name is Kitty Crowther, which in 2010 was awarded the Literature Prize to Astrid Lindgren’s memory.
In particular, the French-speaking part of Belgium has been of relatively great importance for international series development. Much depends on two comics and their magazines. Hergé’s “Tintin” got its own magazine in 1946 (closed down in 1988), where influential adventure series such as “Blake and Mortimer” by EP Jacobs and “Alix” by Jacques Martin were also published. In 1938, “Spirou” and the magazine of the same name were launched, where future bestsellers like “Lucky Luke” by Morris and “Smurfs” by Peyo debuted after the Second World War. During the 1950’s, Belgian series were helped by the growing French serial market. Belgium has spread its comic adventure series far beyond its borders. In recent years, renewal has taken place outside the increasingly petrified children’s series tradition.
Belgium’s most important contribution to the development of film technology was the physicist Joseph Plateau’s (1801–83) invention of the optical toy phenakistoscope in 1832. The apparatus was a series of pictures drawn on a disc, which when turned against a mirror gave rise to a simple animation. The first to produce a film in the country was the Frenchman Alfred Machin (1877-1929), whose studio opened in 1910. With the audio film around 1930, Belgium’s production was divided into the two dominant language areas. Proximity to France attracted French-language filmmakers such as Jacques Feyder and Charles Spaak (1903–75). Similarly, the Flemish found a natural collaboration with industry in the Netherlands. Those who still managed to give the Belgian-produced films their own identity include the documentaries Charles Dekeukeleire (1905–71), André Cauvin (1907–2004) and especially Henri Storck (1907–99).
During the 1960’s, director André Delvaux (1926–2002) established himself with films characterized by intrinsic, magical realism, as in “Un soir un train” (1968). At the same time, the experimental filmmaker Chantal Akerman became known for feminist studies as the four-hour-long “Jeanne Dielman” (1975). The writer Hugo Claus also contributed to the international breakthrough for Belgian film with five directing works 1964–2001, among others. The Cannes contribution “The Sacrament” (1990).
During the 1990’s, the Belgian film industry was given a number of high-profile names, such as Jaco van Dormael (“Totos farms”, 1991), brothers Jean-Pièrre and Luc Dardenne (Gold palm winner “Rosetta”, 1999) and trio Rémy Belvaux (1966-2006)., André Bonzel (born 1961) and Benoît Poelvoorde (born 1964) who made the violent pseudo-documentary “C’est arrivé près de chez vous” (1992), better known as “Man Bites Dog”. Then also became the karate star Jean-Claude Van Dammea world name with the Hollywood success “Universal Soldier” (1992). He returned to his hometown of Brussels for the pseudo-documentary about himself, “JCVD” (2008). The Dardenne brothers have since had continued success with, among other things. another Gold Palm Winner, “The Child” (2005), and “The Boy with the Bike” (2011), who won the jury award in Cannes.
The anarchic toy animation for TV, “Panique au Village” (2000–) by Stéphane Aubier (born 1965) and Vincent Patar (born 1965), became internationally acclaimed towards the end of the decade under the English title “A Town Called Panic” and followed in 2009 of a feature film of the same name.
Belgium produces 5–7 feature films a year, but in recent decades it should also add 2–3 co-productions per year with foreign film companies.
For the older art of Belgium see Flemish art and the Netherlands (art). The art that emerged since Belgium became an independent state was linked in part to old Flemish tradition and partly to the development in France. As is so often the case in new free states, there was a need to talk about and document political independence, the prosperity of business and the national characteristic.
During the “Dutch period” (1815-30) neoclassicism prevailed in painting. The Frenchman Louis David, who lived in Brussels 1816-25, conveyed his classic ideals to, among other things, his pupil François Joseph Navez. He worked with historical and religious motifs but became best known for his bold portraits of famous people. Navez is considered the founder of modern Belgian painting, and in his studio many young artists, such as Charles De Groux, Jakob Smits and Constantin Meunier, who were in opposition to contemporary romance. A romantic history painting with national and pathetic overtones was represented by Gustave Wappers, Louis Gallait and Antoine Wiertz. The latter’s declamatory and somewhat morbid production, which is considered to precede surrealism, was assembled in a purpose-built museum in Brussels.
A more compelling national art was created only after the middle of the nineteenth century when Henri de Braekeleer in his realistic portrayals linked to the 16th century champions’ depictions of life. During the latter part of the 19th century, Braekeleer was influenced by Manetism through Manet. The most significant representatives of realism were the painter De Groux and the sculptor Meunier. After the middle of the century, French influence became more and more noticeable. The Barbizon School’s moody, realistic landscape painting is reflected in Hippolyte Boulenger’s lyrical images and French impressionism in Émile Claus’s light-filled landscape. Many Belgian painters were more or less influenced by French outdoor painting and impressionism at the turn of the century, eg. Jakob Smits, Guillaume Vogels and Jean de Greef. At about the same time with Impressionism, neo-Impressionism came to Belgium,
The fantastic and imaginative that is usually highlighted as a Belgian character trait can be read from Félicien Rops, who, however, was active in Paris from 1875. This feature is even more significant with James Ensor, who was called the first great painter of modern Belgium. His buoyant color points to fauvism and his macabre figurative world to surrealism. Henri Evenepoel, who, like Ensor, began as an impressionist, also approached fauvism through his way of pushing up the color tones. Constant Permeke, who has his own museum in Jabbeke, with his paintings and sculptures in a heavy and monumental style, is a significant representative of Germanic expressionism. Permeke belonged, as well as among others. Albert Servaes and the sculptor Georges Minne, a group of artists who gathered in the village of Laethem Saint Martin in 1890–1900.
The most prominent representative of abstract art was Georges Vantongerloo. He was one of the pioneers of neoplasticism and belonged to the founders of the artist group De Stijl 1917. Other non-figurative artists are Marc Mendelsohn and the sculptor Oscar Jespers. The two most important names of surrealism are René Magritte and Paul Delvaux, the latter with his own museum opened in Saint Idesbald in 1982. The international COBRA group from Belgium participated, among others. Pierre Alechinsky, Pol Bury and Corneille. From the Belgian surrealist tradition Marcel Broodthaers in his poetic-ironic works was filled with picture quotes and letter symbolism. He has played an important role in the development during the 1960’s and 1970’s.
In the arts, Belgium is best known for its textiles. Around 1500, Brussels became the center of a very extensive manufacture of woven wallpaper, and at about the same time a richly varied lace art emerged. The art of furniture was also high at an early stage. was manufactured during the 15th century and the beginning of the 16th century Gothic altar cabinets that testify to unusual carpentry technical skill; The cabinets were exported on a large scale. Swedish churches.
Through the architect and designer Henry van de Velde, Belgium, during the decades around the turn of the 1900, came to strongly influence the development of the Art Nouveau.
Belgium’s older architecture is characterized by the medieval city centers of the free trade cities; The capital of Brussels with its well-preserved medieval square, town hall and the church of Saints-Michel-et-Gudule, the port city of Bruges with its high bell tower and adjacent halls, and the city of Ghent with the castle ‘s-Gravensteen and the cathedral Sint Baaf are brilliant expressions of the refinement of medieval architecture.
The prosperity of Brussels during the 18th century gave rise to several elements of French-inspired classicism in the city center; an era that ended with the grand Palace of Justice built in 1862–83 by Joseph Poelaert. The Hôtel Tassel is considered by Victor Horta in Brussels (1893–95) to be the foremost building work of Art Nouveau architecture. Together with Henry van de Velde, Horta is regarded as the pioneers of modern Belgian architecture.
Among contemporary architects in Belgium, Charles Vandenhove is noted with significant postmodern buildings, for example. in the Hors-Château district of Liège (1985), and Lucien Kroll with the student housing la Mémé in Woluwé-Saint-Lambert on the outskirts of Brussels (1968-70). Examples of modern Belgian urban planning during the latter part of the 1970’s are the new satellite and university town of Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve (in Brabant).
Instrument finds (flutes, clay drums, etc.) testify to musical activity in prehistoric times, but the music itself in the current Belgian area during the earliest periods is virtually unknown. In the early Middle Ages, the Liège area in particular was a musical center, but in many other places in Belgium, centers were established for both church music (mainly in connection with cathedrals) and for worldly music (eg in Bruges and Ypres). In the 15th century, Guillaume Dufay began a period during which composers and musicians from (mainly the southern) Netherlands largely dominated Western Europe’s music life. Perhaps best known is Josquin Desprez and Orlando di Lasso, one of the last major representatives of the so-called Dutch polyphonic schools. Compare Dutch schools.
The period 1600-1830 was marked by periods of recession, partly conditioned by war and economic decline, and several significant Belgian composers lived in Paris, for example. François Joseph Gossec and André Grétry.
Since Belgium became independent in 1830, the state sought systematically and successfully to rebuild a Belgian musical life. Among other things, several conservatories were established, compulsory music education in schools was introduced and concert and opera activities were promoted. The most prominent Belgian composer of the 19th century was Flemish César Franck, active in Paris. In the next generation, the impressionist Arthur Meulemans (1884-1966) can be mentioned. Of later composers, Henri Pousseur was internationally known for his electronic music. Among contemporary composers is the minimalist Wim Mertens (born 1953), also noted for his film music.
The thriving music scene in Belgium today is characterized to some extent by the division into a French-speaking and a Dutch-speaking area with both Walloon and Flemish opera scenes and ballet companies as well as the festivals Festival de Wallonie and Festival van Vlaanderen. Mention should also be made of the famous bell school in Mechelen (École des Carillonneurs) and the highly regarded and demanding musician and composer competitions Concours Musical International Reine Élisabeth.
From Belgium come several artists with world renown, including violinist virtuosos Henri Vieuxtemps, Eugène Ysaÿe, Arthur Grumiaux and opera singers José van Dam, Jules Bastin (1933-96) and Rita Gorr.
Born in Belgium, Django Reinhardt, who was of Roman origin, became one of jazz’s most virtuoso and style-forming guitarists from the 1930’s. Similarly, the Toots Thielemans harmonica has become one of the most important jazz exponents of his instrument. Other leading Belgian jazz musicians include guitarists René Thomas (1927–75) and Philip Catherine (born 1942), and saxophonists Bobby Jaspar (1926–63) and Steve Houben (born 1950).
Bobbejaan Schoepen (really Modest Schoepen, 1925–2010) takes a special position in Belgian popular music. In the 1950’s-1970’s he stood at the top with his mix of cabaret songs, folk music, country and pop. Vocal singer Jacques Brel, active in Paris from the 1950’s, has become immortal with songs like “Amsterdam” and “Ne me quitte pas”.
The singing nun Soeur Sourire (really Jeanine Deckers, 1933-85) was responsible for one of Belgian music’s greatest international success with the song “Dominique” (1963). Flemish singer Helmut Lotti (born 1969) has been successful with a wide repertoire. After starting out as a rock singer, he switched to classical music and has since sung both Latin American music and African and Russian songs.
Belgian rock music has been difficult to reach outside the country. The exceptions include punk rocker Plastic Bertrand (actually Roger Jouret, born 1954) with the hit song “Ça plane pour moi” (1977), the Latin-inspired group Vaya Con Dios and the vocally stressed group Zap Mama with his African-influenced music. In synth music, Front 242 has become style-forming. The group Telex has also been successful with its electronic pop music. Among today’s groups, the alternative rock band dEUS can be mentioned.
Belgium has two major scenes for ballet art. The Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels became a center when the Frenchman Maurice Béjart was invited in 1959 to use it as the home mascot for the Ballet du XX ième Siècle. The repertoire was completely dominated by Béjart, and his school, Mudra, attracted students from all over the world. In 1987, a break between Béjart and the theater came, and he moved with his ensemble to Lausanne.
Belgium’s second ballet scene is in Antwerp, where Koninklijk Ballet van Vlaanderen dances a varied repertoire.
The traditional culture in Belgium is characterized by the country’s linguistic and ethnic divisions, and given the country’s history and existence, it is not adequate to speak of “Belgian folk culture” as something specific and definable. As in the Netherlands and the French Flanders, manu- factures and trade created the economic conditions for the early urbanization of present-day Belgium, which also affected a large part of the countryside.
The villages, farms and houses of the Belgian commonwealth correspond to the structure, layout and way of building with the conditions in neighboring parts of the surrounding countries. The same applies to a large extent, for example. folk art and costume, but the boundaries between Flemish / Dutch and Walloon / French do not coincide consistently with the language boundaries, and within both languages there are considerable rural variations.
Among the most spectacular in Belgian folk culture is the celebration of gilles parties and annual celebrations, where not least the magnificent costumes at the carnival trains in, for example, the city of Binche have become famous.
Commission Royale Belge de Folklore in Brussels is a central institution with sections for Flemish and Walloon folk culture and with an extensive publication.