Ball, Hugo

(1886-1927)
   actor and writer; central to the founding of Dada.* Born to a shoe manufacturer in Pirmasens, he studied philosophy in 1906-1907 and settled in Berlin* in 1910 to study acting under Max Reinhardt.* Quickly honing his talents, he began creating his own Expressionist dramas and was named drama consultant to the Plauen theater company. He was serving as dramaturge with the Munich Chamber Players at the outbreak of World War I; he fled to Switzerland and found work with Bern's Die Freie Zeitung. In Feb-ruary 1916, with several other refugees—most notably the Rumanian Tristan Tzara and the Germans Hans Arp and Richard Huelsenbeck—he hatched the artistic movement known as Dada at Zurich's Cabaret Voltaire. Aside from Huelsenbeck, Ball s cohorts failed to appreciate that Dada meant something more to him than nonsensical claptrap; it had serious metaphysical underpin-nings. In 1917 he abandoned the movement and, with his future wife Emmy Hennings, worked in various Swiss clubs as a piano player.
   After the shapeless and anarchistic ridicule of Dada, Ball became attached to order and obedience. His polemic Zur Kritik der deutschen Intelligenz (On a critique of German intelligence) vented grievances against four hundred years of German history. Viewing the Reformation as Germany s greatest misfortune, he successively attacked Luther, Hegel, Bismarck, Marx, and Nietzsche. Fol-lowing this sweeping condemnation, he purged his soul by embracing Catholi-cism, which he had abandoned in his youth. Back in Germany after the war, he was employed in 1924 by Der blaue Vogel, a Berlin literary magazine. He found confirmation for his theology through a prolific ability with rhymes, verse, and essays; Hermann Hesse praised his work as honest and intellectually demanding. Ball spent his last years in Switzerland, dying of cancer near Lake Lugano.
   REFERENCES:Ball, Flight out of Time; Benz and Graml, Biographisches Lexikon; Last, German Dadaist Literature; NDB, vol. 1.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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