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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Georges Eekhoud (1854–1927)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
“LA JEUNE BELGIQUE” is more than a school; it is a literary movement, which began about the year 1880. The aim of this group of writers is to found a national literature, which uses the French language and technique for the expression of the Flemish or Walloon spirit, and the peculiar sentiment and individuality of the Belgian race which has developed between the more powerful nations of France and Germany. In the words of William Sharp:—
          “To one who has closely studied the whole movement in its intimate and extra-national bearings, as well as in its individual manifestations and aberrations, its particular and collective achievement in the several literary genres, there is no question as to the radical distinction between Belgic and French literature. Whether there be a great future for the first, is almost entirely dependent on the concurrent political condition of Belgium. If Germany were to appropriate the country, it is almost certain that only the Flemish spirit would retain its independent vitality, and even that probably only for a generation or two. But if Belgium were absorbed by France, Brussels would almost immediately become as insignificant a literary center as is Lyons or Bordeaux, or be, at most, not more independent of Paris than is Marseilles. Literary Belgium would be a memory, within a year of the hoisting of the French tricolor from the Scheldt to the Liège. Meanwhile, the whole energy of ‘Young Belgium’ is consciously or unconsciously concentrated in the effort to withstand Paris.”
  1
  Among the leading spirits of “La Jeune Belgique” are Maurice Maeterlinck, Georges Eekhoud, Camille Lemonnier, Georges Rodenbach, J. K. Huysmans, Auguste Jenart, Eugene Demolder, and a number of others, who have distinguished themselves in fiction and poetry. Their works are generally inspired by the uncompromising sense of the reality of ordinary life, which would sometimes be repulsive if it were not for their brilliant style and psychological undercurrent.  2
  This school of literature is somewhat analogous to that of the Flemish painting. Nature is always an important accessory to the development of the action; and therefore the landscapes and the genre pictures are given with a rapid and sure touch and in a vivid and high key,—so high that at times the colors are almost crude. The reader of these Belgian writers often feels, in consequence, that he is looking at a series of paintings which are being explained by a narrator.  3
  Of all these writers, Georges Eekhoud, whom Mr. Sharp calls “the Maupassant of the Low Countries,” is the one who has made the greatest effort to model his work upon the style of the contemporary French authors. He was born in Antwerp, May 27th, 1854. His literary career was begun as an editor of the Precursor, in Antwerp, but he soon became associated with L’Étoile Belge as literary editor. In 1877 he published his first volume, entitled ‘Myrtes et Cyprès.’ This was succeeded by a second book of poetry, ‘Zigzags Poétiques et Pittoresques,’ which appeared in 1879. Among the most admired of these poems are ‘La Mare aux Sangues,’ ‘Nina,’ ‘Raymonne,’ and the strong ‘La Guigne.’  4
  French critics say that his diction lacks polish, but that he has strength, color, and a talent for description. His novels are—‘Kees Doorik’ (1884), ‘Les Kermesses’ (1884), ‘Les Milices de Saint-François’ (1886), ‘Les Nouvelles Kermesses’ (1887), and ‘La Nouvelle Carthage’ (1888). The latter is considered his most brilliant novel, and won for him the quinquennial prize of 5,000 francs given for French literature in Belgium. It is a vivid picture of Antwerp, with vigorous and highly colored descriptions of its middle-class citizens, enriched by centuries of continued prosperity. In general, Eekhoud is naturalistic, and intent only on painting life as he sees and feels it. His other books include—‘Cycle Patibulaire’ (1892); ‘Au Siècle de Shakespeare,’ a valuable book on the English literature of the Elizabethan period (1893); ‘Mes Communions’ (1895); ‘Esoal Vigor’ (1899), and ‘La Faneuse d’amour’ (1900). He has translated into French verse Beaumont and Fletcher’s ‘Philaster’ (1895) and Marlowe’s ‘Edward II.’ (1896).  5
 
 
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