At the origins of the two literatures are the Cantilène de Sainte Eulalie (Cantilena di Santa Eulalia) and the Ludwigslied (Canto di Ludovico) written by the hand of a copyist of the century. IX in Saint-Amand. In the context of early French literature, the Vie de Saint Léger (Life of San Léger) and the Vie de Saint Alexis (Life of Saint Alexis) are also found in Walloon documents. Didactic and chivalric literature also had a great diffusion. According to Estatelearning, in the Belgian lands there are testimonies relating to sacred and profane literature of the Middle Ages. It is interesting to consider in the territory of the Duchy of Burgundy (with Brussels the capital) the fortune of historians and courtly poets: Froissart (ca. 1337-ca. 1405), Châtelain (1405-1475) and above all Commynes (ca. 1445-1511), who passed into the service of the king of France, are authors of typical Burgundian and therefore Belgian training.
Even popular songs and local traditions show a very particular characteristic in the Walloon literary testimonies: a descriptive realism and sometimes an exuberance (mystical in sacred authors) akin to the great pictorial creation of the Flemish school. The passage from the Burgundian era to the empire of Charles V and, therefore, to the Spanish and then to the Austrian dominion is characterized by some literary works and various writings: in particular we must take into account the Protestant reform, both for the figure of Ph. Marnix de Sainte-Aldegonde, effective author in both languages and magnanimous antagonist of Prince Alessandro Farnese to the surrender of Antwerp (1585), and for the dissemination of philological and historical writings in the atmosphere of Humanism and the Renaissance with special regard to the Plantin typography in Antwerp. Moreover, a decline connected with historical events can be seen both in Walloon and Dutch literature up to the French Revolution and the Napoleonic period. Only one figure of international importance is found in French letters: Prince Charles-Joseph de Ligne (1735-1814), field marshal of the empire, who died during the Congress of Vienna; his pages on the douceur de vivre are importantor on the beauty of its gardens. It has been said that, from 1830 to 1880, Belgium, having acquired independence and organized its society, did not fully show its literary abilities compared to other peoples of Europe; but it is also true that, examined by a great Belgian literary historian, Gustave Charlier, the romantic period from 1815 to 1850 reveals notable figures of polemicists and treatise writers and a good setting for future literary battles. However, the patriotic intent, especially since 1830, has the better of the poetic inspiration.
Among the best authors are André Van Hasselt and Octave Pirmez. Characteristic is the influence of realism, which is often shown with romantic elements even in the religious field. But it can be said that exquisitely Belgian literature manifests itself profoundly with Charles De Coster, born in Munich in 1827 to a Flemish father and a Walloon mother. There is almost a foretaste of unity in this narrator who sings, in the tasty language of his Till Ulenspiegel (1868), the revolt against the stranger and against religious dogmas. A Belgian literary awakening therefore begins with this original book and manifests itself with renewed interest around 1880 with the magazine La Jeune Belgique (of which Max Waller was the animator), which highlighted new temperaments of artists with Parnassian interests. Remember in particular Camille Lemonnier (1844-1913) who with his uniform “Nous mêmes ou perir” (To be ourselves or to perish) prepared that literary battle to which the generation of symbolists close to the magazine La Wallonie was not alien , but which was conducted between realism and decadence. An original place had the French-speaking Flemings, full of sensual and even mystical images, such as G. Eckhoud, G. Virrès, E. Demolder; while the Walloon narrators appeared more intimate and dreamers: L. Delattre, M. Des Ombiaux, E. Glesener, H. Krains. The theater also reflected a twofold trend. Moreover, the sacred and profane medieval representations had already revealed many attitudes, between sensuality and intelligence, instinct and refinement, but the vein was exhausted. And if Charles Potvin ‘s attempts to establish a national theater were noble, if perhaps a greater impulse was found among the Flemings with Julius Hoste and Frans Gittens, in reality we must wait for Maurice Maeterlinck, Nobel laureate, and his symbolist plays because the Belgian drama has that worldwide resonance whose echo has already found its origin in the same symbolism of Fernand Séverin, Georges Rodenbach, also famous for the narration of Bruges la morte (Bruges la morte) and Le carillonneur (The bell ringer), Charles Van Lerberghe, Grégoire Le Roy, Max Elskamp and Èmile Verhaeren. And, again, in surrealism and intimist poetry as well as in contemporary theater, Belgian writers have made notable contributions: Henri Michaux in lyric; Georges Simenon (born in Liège) in the detective novel, with the creation of a new genre that breaks with tradition; Michel de Ghelderode in the theater, with its religious dramas lived in the grotesque and absurd arc of a popular festival; and finally Charles Plisnier who, in the search for absolute freedom, he published a book of world renown, Faux passeports (Fake passports).
Contemporary poetry retains its own identity, a taste for the concrete and the human expressed in calm forms that finds the most important figure in Marcel Thiry (1897-1977), a rigorous singer of the modern world. Next to him the exuberant Robert Goffin (1898-1984), Maurice Carême, Fernand Verhesen, author of Franchir la nuit (1970) Baroque-inspired, Jean Mogin (1921-1986) who is also a playwright, Gérard Prévot (b.1922), Georges Linze (1900-1993), poet and novelist, Hubert Juin (1926-1987), novelist and essayist, Jean Tordeur (b.1920) and André Gascht (b.1921). Roger Bodart (1910-1973) and Géo Librecht belong to the tradition, while more sensitive to modern concerns are Pierre Dellafaille, Liliane Wouters (b. 1930), Roland Busselen (b. 1932). The mystery of the Walloon countryside, on the other hand, resounds in Jacques Izoard’s Voix, vêtements, saccages (b. 1936). There are some strands in the narrative: the regionalist one with Marie Gevers (1883-1975) and Hubert Juin; the adventurous and fantastic one with Jean Ray (1887-1964); the psychological one embodied above all by writers such as Dominique Rolin (b. 1913) and Françoise Mallet-Joris (b. 1930); the historical one with Francis Walder (1906-1997). The awareness of belgitude is accentuated in the face of the excessive power of French literature which has consecrated and absorbed famous authors such as Michaux and Simenon; its spokespersons are Pierre Mertens (b. 1939) and Jean-Pierre Verheggen (b. 1942). In poetry, the generation of Norge Géo (1898-1990) is succeeded by that of Werner Lambersy (b.1942), Frans de Haes (b.1948), Karel Logist (b.1962). The theater is based on the historical work of Herman Closson, by Jean Mogin and Suzanne Lilar, interpreters of religious and metaphysical concerns, by Georges Sion (b.1913), convincing in the light comedy, by Charles Bertin (b.1919) and Jean Sigrid. Among the contemporary storytellers of international fame are Amelie Nothomb (b. 1967) and Henri Bauchau (b. 1915).