Traces mémorielles de la Première Guerre mondiale et mutations esthétiques après 1918

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Marc Quaghebeur


The German invasion and occupation of Belgium in 1914-1918 deeply impacted the Belgian literary field. In many regards, the country’s political and linguistic evolution was also impacted by the war, although it cannot be reduced to its consequences. The imaginary that impregnated the first attempts of building a francophone literature in Belgium flickered due to the collapse of the Germanic myth that inspired the whole 19th Century. What may be called a “Latin shift”, which began with Maurice Maeterlinck, lead to a renewed subjugation to the French doxa, culminating with the Manifeste du lundi [Monday’s Manifesto]. Nevertheless, after the war and the Russian Revolution, the collapse of traditional values gives birth, on the one hand, to masterpieces by surrealist Paul Nougé, expressionist playwright Fernand Crommelynck or avant-gardist poet Henry Michaux. In all these masterpieces, it’s the nature of language itself that is questioned. For instance, Michaux’s “Lettre de Belgique” [“Letter from Belgium”] shows how the writer works with his Belgian roots in order to paradoxically keep them at bay. On the other hand, the “Fantastique réel” [“Fantastic Real”] tries to keep the language unspoiled by holding on to the Symbolist idealism and acknowledging the wounds of war at the same time, through sudden shifts from Realism to the Uncanny. There are traces of the conflict in literary texts, which were though forgotten by Literary History because of their realistic facture, despite their great efficiency without pathos.


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Quaghebeur, M. (2016). Traces mémorielles de la Première Guerre mondiale et mutations esthétiques après 1918. Studia Romanica Posnaniensia, 43(4), 5-38.


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