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Belgium History

Belgium - national flagBelgium - national flag

The flag dates from the year of the revolution 1789, when it was flown with horizontal stripes. After Belgium became independent in 1830, officially from 1831, the stripes were placed vertically similar to the French Tricolore. During the preceding battles against the Dutch, the flag had the almost square shape which has been retained ever since. Black, yellow and red are the coat of arms of the central province of Brabant, but they also appear in the arms of several other Belgian provinces.

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Belgium - prehistory

The oldest finds from the area belong to the older Paleolithic acheulée culture. At Spy near Namur in southern Belgium, two adult graves and a children's grave with skeletons of Neanderthal people dating to the later Moustéri culture have been found in a cave. From the Neolithic can be highlighted a place with flint mines at Spiennes near Mons in the southwest. The shafts reach a depth of 16 meters. There is also a large Sarup facility (Sarup), where ritual closures of human skulls have been found. At Clemency near the border with Luxembourg, the largest known Gallic chamber tomb has been excavated with a very rich equipment, Roman wine amphorae. The tomb is dated to 80-60 BC. and is associated with the Celtic people of the Treverians.

Belgium History

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Belgium - history

I 57 BC. Julius Caesar conquered the present Belgian territory, which was then inhabited by Celtic peoples (Belgians). The area became a Roman province under the name Gallia Belgica, and Latin language and culture gradually became dominant. From the middle of 300-teKr. Germanic tribes, Franks, penetrated into the province. This created the language border that still runs from east to west through Belgium. North of the line, the Germanic languages, which later became Dutch, prevailed, while Latin, which later became French, retained its position to the south. In the following centuries, the area became Christian and became the geographical and cultural center of the Frankish Empire under Charlemagne, who ruled 768-814.

Belgium - regions and reforms

In the aftermath of the oil crisis in 1973, the Belgian governments faced problems in the form of low growth rates, high unemployment and rising budget deficits. At the same time, in the years after 1970, Belgium became increasingly regionalized. In order to adopt the necessary constitutional reforms were changing coalition governments have 2/3 majority, which along with party divisions had hampered regeringsdannelserne. In 1993, with a radical constitutional amendment, Belgium was transformed into a federal state, so that the capital region of Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels each gained extensive autonomy.

The 1990's were difficult years in Belgian politics, partly due to large government debt and partly due to a series of political scandals. The partially unsolved assassination of the Socialist leader André Cools (1927-91) in 1991 led to the revelation of bribery on a larger scale by the Socialist parties from foreign arms suppliers. It cost several leading socialists their careers, such as Willy Claes, who had just been appointed Secretary General of NATO. The authorities' reprehensible behavior during the investigation of extensive crime in connection with pedophilia triggered widespread mistrust, which in 1996 found expression in a number of "white marches".

In the 1999 election, the Flemish Christian Social Party led by Jean-Luc Dehaene lost and had to go into opposition for the first time in 41 years. Instead, a so-called rainbow coalition consisting of liberals, socialists and environmental parties came with the Flemish liberal Guy Verhofstadt as prime minister. The Greens were for the first time part of a federal Belgian government, which sat until the 2003 election. Here the Socialists advanced again, while the Greens lost and had to leave the government. Guy Verhofstadt continued as Prime Minister of a government of Liberals and Socialists. He held this post until 2008, when he was replaced by Yves Leterme, who became the leader of a coalition government. A few months later, however, Leterme submitted his resignation as a result of his inability to unite the French- and Flemish-speaking regions. He was succeeded by Herman Van Rompuy, however, who only sat until 2009, when he became the EU's first president. Leterme returned, but in 2010 resubmitted his resignation. Belgium then ended up in a protracted government crisis, as it was not possible to form a government due to the deep contradictions between the French-speaking and Flemish-speaking groups. Only after 18 months did the French-speaking socialist Elio di Rupo (b. 1951) succeed in forming a government in December 2011. Following the parliamentary elections in May 2014, di Rupo submitted his resignation and Belgium was again left without a government. Only five months later did it succeed in forming a new government consisting of three Flemish and one French-speaking party; Charles Michel (b. 1975) is the new Prime Minister.

Belgium - literature

Belgian literature is sharply divided into Flemish and French-language literature, which is strongly influenced by resp. Dutch and French literature.

Flemish literature

In the Middle Ages, the southern parts of the Dutch language area were the cultural leaders. In Limburg occurred in the late 1100-t. a folklore literature with Heinric van Veldeke (memorial song, courtly epic). In the county of Flanders and the Duchy of Brabrant developed in the 1200's and 1300's. through contact with French culture a rich literature with Celtic and Carolingian legends as a basis. European format was given Flemish writing art with the animal epic, the fox book Van den vos Reynaerde, a satire on the estate society that has retained its freshness.

With Jan van der Noot (b. approximately 1539) in the second half of the 1500-t. early literature was on a par with the form and content of the European Renaissance. He was one of the first Dutchmen to adapt the sonnet to his own language. But when the revolt against Spain in 1585 failed in the case of the southern provinces, it was over with the Flemish literature. Many artists fled to the free, northern provinces, and the literary language now became exclusively French. However, Brussels had a living Flemish-language theater.

A Flemish-language literature only re-emerged in connection with the national revival after 1830. The historical novels of Hendrik Consciences (1812-83) gained great influence. Although 1900-t. is influenced by various European currents, the literary goal is constantly modified by the efforts of Flemishness. Much therefore ends in an idyllic description of Flemish folk life. Innovative figures are the lyricist Guido Gezelle and in the 1890's the circle of the magazine Van Nu en Straks.

Around World War I, expressionism gained a prominent representative in Paul van Ostaijen. The literary picture before and after World War II is kaleidoscopic; the orientation is international. Through the contact with French literature, the experimental novel and theater of the post-war period receives stronger impulses than in the Netherlands, to which the literary connections with the exception of a few very significant authors are limited. See also Holland literature.

French-language literature

Belgium's French - language literature has always been squeezed in several ways. The authors have to distinguish themselves from France, which unanimously decides what is considered to be properly French and who likes to talk about "the Belgian fog". They must stand out in relation to Flemish language and culture, which is easiest for the Walloons, but problematic for those who grew up in French-speaking families in Flanders. The authors generally feel that language does not cover either social or historical reality; they are homeless both in their homeland and in their mother tongue.

Across the story, the French-speaking Belgian writers can be divided into three categories, each denoting a special relationship to the language. For some, it is a conventional, academic writing style; sometimes over-correct, sometimes of classical beauty (Francis Walder, Henry Bauchau). For others, it becomes a liberating unorthodox linguistic party firework (Norway, Jean-Pierre Verheggen). In still others, the feeling of abandonment results in a search inward into the depths of the soul, to which the tool is a linguistic thinning that is approaching dissolution. Often the fleeting language is anchored in a non-verbal dimension.

The significant Belgian drama is an expression of this (Fernand Crommelynck, Michel de Ghelderode, René Kalisky). Many writers illustrate their texts (Max Elskamp), invent genres in which words and graphics are inextricably linked (Christian Dotremont), or become significant visual artists (Henri Michaux). It is no coincidence that the comic got its European form in Belgium.

Three major periods characterize French-language Belgian literature. The first goes from independence in 1830 to the collapse of World War I and is center-seeking and optimistic, what seen by slogans such as "Let us be us" and "Belgian soul". The other, centrifugal and pessimistic, ends with the decolonization of the Congo in 1960. It is marked by denial and emigration; the signatories of the so-called Manifesto du lundi (1937) considered themselves to be full-blooded French writers born in Belgium to the detriment of fate. A third generation of writers, led by Pierre Mertens, took note of the birthplace of the manifesto L'autre Belgique (1976) and became acquainted with the concept of "belgitude".(1980, Belgium after all). Rather than solving the aesthetic problem of the identity crisis, however, the movement came to accentuate the tension between the more elitist writers in Brussels and the Walloons who could be accused of regionalism.

Around the turn of the millennium, literary production is characterized in particular by vitality and diversity. Representatives for the period include Philippe Blasband, Sophie Buyse, Francis Dannemark, Paul Emond and Jean-Luc Outers.

The literary schools in Belgium are often based on the corresponding French, but are strongly divergent. In the 1830's, efforts were made to create a romantic national literature with themes from the glorious past of the Belgian Netherlands and contemporary industrial miracles (Théodore Weustenraad). Interesting was André Van Hasselt's attempt to transfer Germanic (Flemish) metrics to French verse theory.

The first major but long-misunderstood masterpiece of French-language Belgian literature was Charles De Caster's historical novel epic La Légende d'Ulenspiegel (1867, then Till Uglspil, 1944), which called for understanding between the two language communities when Napoleon III had plans to annex Belgium.

It was not until the 1880's, however, that Belgian literature really unfolded to achieve international recognition with the l'art pour l'art lyricists around the magazine La jeune Belgique and with a lesser-than-doctrinal naturalism (Camille Lemonnier) and more lyrically descriptive than the French.

This was especially true of the symbolists, whose distinctive feature was to unite the Flemish imaginary universe and French form of expression in a way that made their youthful works stand out in particular: Maurice Maeterlinck (poetry, theater), Charles Van Lerberghe (poetry), Georges Rodenbach (novels) and Émile Verhaeren, who began as a symbolist and ended up as one of Europe's best-known socially engaged expressionists.

It is the symbolists' search for a reality beyond the physically sensed, which is found in interwar Brussels surrealism, whose key figures were René Magritte and his friend Paul Nougé, who gave Magritte's paintings their poignant titles.

So far, it is the same quest that characterizes the crime novel (Georges Simenon, Stanislas-André Steeman) and the fantastic narrative that has perhaps more than anything else made Belgian literature known in our time. It ranges from gentle magical realism (Franz Hellens) over the blackest horror (Jean Ray) to science fiction (Marcel Thiry).

 

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