English language has borrowed many words and many phrases from other languages such as belles-lettres and belletrist.
Belle is a beautiful woman. Belle refers to the most beautiful woman in a group. Who is the belle of Bollywood and Tollywood in the second decade (2020-2029) of the 21st century? What is belles lettres or belles-lettres?
Belles lettres appears like a plural compound noun but functions as both a singular and plural noun. Belles lettres is used with and without hyphen: belles-lettres. It is French in origin, literally means ‘fine letters’ and refers to literary studies and literary writings unlike writings concerned with commercial or technical or scientific writings.
Belles lettres is a literature that is an end in itself and not merely informative. Belles lettres is the light, entertaining and other sophisticated literature.
Belletrist is a writer of belles lettres. And the adjective is belletristic: the following are the examples of usage of belles lettres from a belletristic writer from undivided Russia (USSR):
“Compared to Fyodor Perepenchuk, Apollo Perepenchuk was a trifling man—I’d even say a louse . . . No offense to his relatives. And anyway, he didn’t leave behind any relatives in the Perepenchuk line, except for Adelaide Perepenchuk, his aunt on his father’s side. And she—well, she doesn’t exactly have a grasp of belles lettres. So let her take all the offense she wants.” –Mikhail Zoshchenko (Apollo and Tamara)
“The author loves and respects belles lettres too much to base his compositions on old wives’ tales and unverified rumors.” –Mikhail Zoshchenko (People)
“In addition, the author considers himself a member of the only honest literary school—the naturalists—who will determine the future course of Russian belles lettres. But even if the author didn’t consider himself a member of this school, he would still find it, shall we say, difficult to write about an unfamiliar person. He might overshoot the mark and bungle up his psychological analysis—or he might skip over some little detail, so that the reader hits a dead end and is forced to wonder at the carelessness of contemporary writers.” –Mikhail Zoshchenko (People)
“A crowd of passersby and neighbors had gathered, guffawing with pleasure and clearly hinting at what appeared to be amorous relations. The author won’t confirm their speculations. He doesn’t know anything about it. And he certainly doesn’t wish to start unnecessary gossip in the realm of belles lettres.” —Mikhail Zoshchenko (What the Nightingale Sang)