Reading Ian Buruma on the division of Belgium

In his piece ‘Le Divorce’ in the New Yorker, the normally astute (and Dutch-born) Ian Buruma regards the prospect of the dissolution of Belgium as largely an economic split between Flanders in the now-rich, Dutch-speaking north and Wallonia in the once-rich, industrial, French-speaking south.  Certainly, the Flemish today occupy a volatile political position, feeling at once wealthier than their co-nationals yet culturally oppressed in a traditionally French-dominant country.  But Buruma fails to mention what Belgians on both sides commonly voice as the historical origins of the divide: modern Belgium lay at the margin of the Roman Empire and thus constitutes the border between the Latin and Germanic worlds.  It is this historical legacy that gives such weight, today, to the linguistic division in the country, with (Germanic) Flemish spoken in the north and (Latinate) French spoken in the south.

Click here to read Ian Buruma’s piece in the New Yorker (subscription required).


Click here to read my article about the Flemish city Ghent in Travel + Leisure.

Or here to read my article about the Brussels jazz club L’Archiduc in Le Monde d’Hermès.

Or here to see my photographs of Belgium.


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