Hugo Ball Criticism - Essay

Hugo Ball (essay date 1916)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The First Dada Manifesto,” translated by Erdmute Wenzel White, in The Magic Bishop: Hugo Ball, Dada Poet by Erdmute Wenzel White, Camden House, 1998, pp. 228-29.

[In the following reprint of his “First Dada Manifesto,” originally delivered in 1916, Ball relates the significance of Dada.]

Dada is a new art movement. One can tell this from the fact that until now nobody knew a thing about it, and tomorrow everyone in Zurich is going to be talking about it. Dada comes from the dictionary. It is terribly simple. In French it means “hobby horse.” In German it means “so long,” “go fly a kite,” “I'll be seeing you sometime.” In Romanian: “Yes, indeed, you are right, that's it. But of course, yes, it's a deal.” And so forth.

An international word. Just a word, and the word a movement. Very easy to understand. Quite terribly simple. To make an art movement of it must mean that one wants to avoid complications. Dada psychology, Dada Germany cum indigestion and fog paroxysms, Dada literature, Dada bourgeoisie, and yourselves, most honored poets, who are always writing with words but never writing the word itself, who are always writing around the actual point. Dada world war without end, Dada revolution without beginning, Dada, you friends and also-poets, esteemed sirs, manufacturers, and evangelists Dada Tzara, Dada Hülsenbeck, Dada m'dada, Dada m'dada Dada mhm, dada dera dada, Dada Hue, Dada Tza.

How does one achieve eternal bliss? By saying Dada. How does one become famous? By...

(The entire section is 655 words.)

Rex W. Last (essay date 1973)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Hugo Ball: A Man in Flight from His Age,” in German Dadaist Literature: Kurt Schwitters, Hugo Ball, Hans Arp, Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1973, pp. 62-115.

[In the following essay, Last surveys Ball's life and career, emphasizing “the variety of styles and forms which he adopted.”]

Of all the Dadaists, Hugo Ball was the one whose life was the most fraught with physical deprivation and inner tension, and torn between the most violent extremes. And yet, at first sight, it appears somewhat surprising that this should be so, for the usual image of Ball is that of a man reveling in the artistic revolution, rather than of an individual borne along upon a tide...

(The entire section is 19536 words.)

John Elderfield (essay date 1974)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction to Flight Out of Time: A Dada Diary, by Hugo Ball, edited by John Elderfield and translated by Ann Raimes, University of California Press, 1996, pp. xiii-xlvi.

[In the following introduction to Ball's journals, originally published in 1974, Elderfield details Ball's life, explores his relationship to the Dada movement, and evaluates his prose works.]

Die Flucht aus der Zeit, Hugo Ball's diaries for the years 1910-21, has long enjoyed the reputation of one of the seminal documents of the dada movement. Hans Richter has written that of all the dadaists only Ball has so precisely expressed the inner conflicts of that period, and that he...

(The entire section is 14652 words.)

Paul Auster (essay date 1975)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Dada Bones,” in The Art of Hunger: Essays, Prefaces, Interviews, Sun & Moon Press, 1992, pp. 54-61.

[In the following essay, originally published in 1975, Auster considers Ball the principal force behind Dada.]

Of all the movements of the early avant-garde, Dada is the one that continues to say the most to us. Although its life was short—beginning in 1916 with the nightly spectacles at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, and ending effectively, if not officially, in 1922 with the riotous demonstrations in Paris against Tristan Tzara's play, Le Coeur à gaz—its spirit has not quite passed into the remoteness of history. Even now, more than fifty...

(The entire section is 2308 words.)

Philip Mann (essay date 1980)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Ball and Nietzsche: A Study of the Influence of Nietzsche's Philosophy on Hugo Ball,” in Forum for Modern Language Studies, Vol. XVI, No. 4, October, 1980, pp. 293-307.

[In the following essay, Mann examines the impact of Friedrich Nietzsche's nihilism, observations on morality, emphasis on the irrational, and critique of modern culture on Ball's thought.]

When discussing Hugo Ball's life in his book Begegnungen, Siegfried Streicher (who had worked with Ball on the Freie Zeitung in Berne in 1917) comments on the great influence which Nietzsche's philosophy had on Ball. He writes: “Ball kam ganz aus der geistigen Essenz Nietzsches. Und er...

(The entire section is 6757 words.)

Anna Balakian (essay date 1986)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “A Triptych of Modernism: Reverdy, Huidobro, and Ball,” in Modernism: Challenges and Perspectives, Monique Chefdor, Ricardo Quinones, and Albert Wachtel, eds., University of Illinois Press, 1986, pp. 111-27.

[In the following essay, Balakian explores the Modernist poetics of Ball, Vicente Huidobro, and Pierre Reverdy.]

Three poets of the early decades of this century shed light on the major paradoxes of modernism. I am not trying to establish this triptych to exercise random intertextuality nor as a basis for a study of influences. Geography separated these poets; the age connected them. From Paris to Zurich, to Santiago and Buenos Aires, the clocks were...

(The entire section is 7404 words.)

Anson Rabinbach (essay date 1993)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction to Critique of the German Intelligentsia by Hugo Ball, translated by Brian L. Harris, Columbia University Press, 1993, pp. vii-xl.

[In the following essay, Rabinbach analyzes Ball's polemic against German nationalism in Critique of the German Intelligentsia, establishing the work's historical contexts and noting its themes and anti-Semitism.]


Hugo Ball's Critique of the German Intelligentsia is simultaneously a historical document and a provocation. A passionate indictment of the German intelligentsia for its chauvinism in the First World War, the Critique is also an extraordinary instance of the...

(The entire section is 12747 words.)

Erdmute Wenzel White (essay date 1998)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Expressionist Poet—‘Realism of the Uninhibited’,” in The Magic Bishop: Hugo Ball, Dada Poet, Camden House, 1998, pp. 27-43.

[In the following essay, White explicates four of Ball's Expressionist poems, observing the ways in which these works “offer a compendium of styles and mannerisms and reflect the diversity of Ball's work.”]

Ball's poetic gift was given new impetus by theories that gained prevalence during his Munich years. These theories were in turn influenced by his work in the theater: in Munich he became an expressionist poet. Ball was a spectacular expressionist, given to manic exaltation. His poetry, much like Gottfried Benn's...

(The entire section is 7449 words.)