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Problems of Digestion. The Memory of the Second World War in Flanders
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Problems of Digestion. The Memory of the Second World War in Flanders

(Martin Conway) The Low Countries - 2005, № 13, pp. 110-120

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The Second World War in Flanders is ‘an undigested past'. The metaphor of digestion is a seductive one. It captures the sense in which the events of the war and its aftermath have seemed doomed to recur in public life and politics in Flanders over the sixty years which have elapsed since the events themselves. But the war is now indeed a very long way away and the traditional Flanders of bell-towers, small farms and predominantly Catholic values has almost literally disappeared under the concrete and tarmac of technological industries, new roads and out-of-town shopping centres. In that sense, the war years ought to be as distant from the secular, pluralist and multi-cultural Flanders of today as, say, the civil war tangibly is from the politics of twenty-first century Spain. But is it really? Conway thinks it would be premature to suggest that the Second World War is about to pass peacefully into history. In so far as its conflicts remain intertwined with the unfinished business of the Belgian state, they can never be far from the surface of public debate. Moreover, within Flanders there has been a shift in the terms of debates about the war years: rather than the past invading the present, the present is now influencing perceptions of the past.

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