Hugo Ball

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Hugo Ball, 1916

Hugo Ball (born February 22, 1886 in Pirmasens , † September 14, 1927 in Sant'Abbondio-Gentilino , Switzerland ) was a German author and biographer . He was also one of the founders of the Dada movement and a pioneer of the phonetic poem .

Live and act

Hugo Ball grew up in a middle-class Catholic family. His father was a shoe manufacturer. From 1895 to 1901 he attended the Royal Progymnasium in Pirmasens, which at that time only had six classes, without the Abitur right. After graduation, Ball reluctantly complied with his parents' wish to begin an apprenticeship with the leather merchant Ferdinand Schohl. Ball broke off the apprenticeship for health reasons. His parents now gave in to his wish to catch up on the Abitur in Zweibrücken at the Herzog-Wolfgang-Gymnasium .

After graduating from high school, he began studying German, history and philosophy in Munich in October 1906 and became an "ardent admirer" of Max Reger's music . In 1907 he moved to Heidelberg for two semesters, where he heard a lecture on Schopenhauer and Nietzsche and developed his dissertation project. From 1908 he was matriculated in Munich. In 1909/1910 he studied again for two semesters in Heidelberg and worked in Schnaitsee on his Nietzsche dissertation in Basel , which he did not submit (and which was only published in 1978). He broke off his studies in the spring of 1910. There was an open conflict with his family.

After dropping out of his studies, Ball moved to Berlin. There he trained as an assistant for "direction, dramaturgy and administrative issues" at Max Reinhardt's drama school , where Paul Legband Balls was director's teacher. In the same year he managed to publish his tragic comedy The Nose of Michelangelo at Ernst Rowohlt Verlag . He worked at the Plauen Theater in 1911/12 as a dramaturge, and between 1912 and 1914 at the Münchner Kammerspiele .

After an internal crisis in the theater, Hugo Ball became the company's sole dramaturge. In Munich he met Hans Leybold , Leontine Sagan , and later Richard Huelsenbeck and Emmy Hennings . Hugo Ball became acquainted with the author through the world premiere of Frank Wedekind's Franziska . At the end of 1912 he began work on The Executioner of Brescia . But already in 1913 there was another crisis at the Münchner Kammerspiele . Due to the change of direction, Ball lost influence on the game plan.

Photography by Hugo Ball; Costume as in Dada appearances in Cabaret Voltaire , 1916
Ball was a pioneer of the phonetic poem. Here is the example of a caravan from 1917

Ball published in various magazines in 1913 ( Revolution , Die Neue Kunst , Die Aktion und Jugend ; from 1914 also in the theater magazine Phöbus ). While Die Aktion published Ball's poems more frequently in 1914, a project with Wassily Kandinsky failed . An almanac was planned to supplement the Blauer Reiter , but the beginning of the First World War ended the project. Ball volunteered for military service but was declared unfit. With the intention of visiting a wounded friend in Lunéville , he nevertheless got a glimpse of the war front. He published his experiences in the Pirmasenser Zeitung . Then he went back to Berlin and continued to write for magazines. His front impressions sparked his interest in anarchism . He read the writings of Kropotkin and Bakunin .

In May 1915 Ball emigrated to Switzerland with Emmy Hennings, where the couple initially lived in Zurich. He traveled the country as a piano player and lyricist with a vaudeville ensemble. In February 1916 he founded the Cabaret Voltaire with Emmy Hennings, Hans Arp , Tristan Tzara and Marcel Janco in Zurich , where he performed one of his phonetic poems ( Gadji beri bimba ) for the first time in June , which is known as the “cradle of Dadaism”. In Zurich he also met the writer Friedrich Glauser , who took part in two Dada soirees. In the summer of 1917 Glauser spent two months with Ball and Hennings in Magadino and on Alp Brusada .

Hugo Ball soon withdrew from the circle of active Dadaists and worked from 1917 to 1919 as an employee, finally as the publishing director of the Freie Zeitung , for which he wrote daily political commentaries and critical articles, also under the influence of Bakunin . After the publisher went bankrupt, he lost interest in the political action. He made friends with the student pastor Paul de Mathies, who was active as a writer . In the summer of 1920, Balls turned again ( reversion ) to Catholicism . Here he joined strictly religious circles and studied, among other things, the ancient mystics . Lecture tours took him through Germany and Switzerland.

Grave of Hugo Ball and Emmy Ball-Hennings
Obituary notice in De Stijl , published by Theo van Doesburg

After his marriage to Emmy Hennings on February 21, 1920, Ball lived in the small village of Agnuzzo below Montagnola in the canton of Ticino and from 1926 in Casa Schori , interrupted by a stay in Italy in Rome and at Salerno from autumn 1924 to spring 1926 in Sorengo . From 1924 he became increasingly concerned with Catholic topics and wrote about Catholic theology for the Catholic magazine Hochland . Since moving to Ticino, he had a close friendship with Hermann Hesse , whose biography he wrote from the beginning of October 1926 to the beginning of March 1927 and which was published by S. Fischer in June 1927 .

Ball died of gastric cancer on September 14, 1927 and was buried in the Sant'Abbondio cemetery in Gentilino , where his wife Emmy - she died in 1948 - and Hermann Hesse are also buried.

Commemorative awards and dedications

Walk of Fame of the cabaret in Mainz

1957 was by Harald Szeemann curated exhibition seated painter - poet Underscores the Kunstmuseum St. Gallen Hugo Ball dedicated. In 1976 his hometown Pirmasens brought the Hugo Ball Almanac into being as a forum for Hugo Ball research . In 1988 the Kunstmuseum Zürich dedicated an exhibition and catalog to him. In 1990 the city of Pirmasens awarded the Hugo Ball Prize , which honors personalities who work in the humanities or artistically in the spirit of Hugo Ball every three years. For 2014, the Swiss writer Thomas Hürlimann received the 10,000 euro award. In addition, the new language grammar school in Ball’s hometown was renamed Hugo Ball grammar school . In Mainz Walk of Fame of Cabaret Ball is dedicated to a star. In 2016, the Swiss Post paid tribute to Hugo Ball with a stamp that reproduced the photo shown above of his appearance in Cabaret Voltaire in 1916. Since the end of 2016, the Hugo Ball Kabinett has been honoring his life and work as a permanent exhibition in the Forum Alte Post in Pirmasens.


Original editions

Published posthumously :

  • Collected poems with photos and facsimiles , ed. v. Annemarie Schütt-Hennings. Arche, Zurich 1963.
  • Tenderenda the fantastic. Novel. Arche, Zurich 1967.
  • The executioner of Brescia. Three Acts of Need and Ecstasy [1914]. Edited by Franz L. Pelgen. Faber & Faber, Leipzig 1995.
  • Tenderenda the fantastic. Edited by Raimund Meyer and Julian Schütt . Haymon , Innsbruck 1999, ISBN 3-85218-272-7 .
  • Trifles . Edited by Elena Moreno Sobrino, illustrated by Louis Houtin. Calambac Verlag, Saarbrücken 2014, ISBN 978-3-943117-81-3 .
  • The cat . Edited by Elena Moreno Sobrino, illustrated by Nele Aron. Calambac Verlag, Saarbrücken 2014, ISBN 978-3-943117-83-7 .
  • O, grandpa, o grass popo . Edited by Elena Moreno Sobrino, illustrated by Ando Ueno. Calambac Verlag, Saarbrücken 2014, ISBN 978-3-943117-84-4 .
  • Tenderenda the fantastic . Edited, designed and with a comment by Klaus Detjen. Typographic Library, Volume 12. Wallstein Verlag, Göttingen 2015, ISBN 978-3-8353-1670-6 .
  • Dance of Death 1916 . Edited by Elena Moreno Sobrino, illustrated by Elvira Calderón. Calambac Verlag, Saarbrücken 2015, ISBN 978-3-943117-80-6 .
  • A nativity play. Bruitist - Une crèche vivante. Bruitiste . SJW, Zurich 2016; ISBN 978-3-7269-0026-7 .
  • Escape from time (new edition), publisher: Hugo Ball Gesellschaft, Pirmasens, Wallstein Verlag, Göttingen 2018, ISBN 978-3-89244-744-3


  • Letters 1911–1927. With a foreword by Hermann Hesse . Benziger, Einsiedeln / Cologne / Zurich 1957.
  • Hugo Ball, Emmy Hennings: Back then in Zurich. Dada. Letters from the years 1915–1917. With photos and facsimiles . Arche, Zurich 1977.
  • Hermann Hesse: Correspondence 1921–1927 with Hugo Ball and Emmy Ball-Hennings . Commented on and edited by Bärbel Reetz. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2003, ISBN 3-518-41467-4 .

Complete edition

Radio play adaptations


  • Aesthetic and political-ideological positions of the poet Hugo Ball in the time of the First World War. Scientific journal Karl Marx University Leipzig, social science series, 38th Interdruck, Leipzig 1989.
  • Hugo Ball Almanac. Edited by the city of Pirmasens. Episode 1–30. Pirmasens, 1977-2006.
  • Hugo Ball Almanac. New series 1st ed. By the city of Pirmasens and the Hugo Ball Society. edition text + kritik, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-86916-042-9 , (new episodes annually since 2010).
  • Emmy Ball-Hennings : Hugo Ball's way to God. A book of memory. Kösel & Pustet, Munich 1931.
  • Emmy Hennings: Call and Echo. My life with Hugo Ball. Benziger, Einsiedeln / Zurich / Cologne 1953.
  • Thilo Bock : “A lively magazine, so to speak.” Hugo Ball and the literary stage. Dissertation Technical University Berlin 2003. Verbrecher Verlag, Berlin 2016, ISBN 978-3-95732-171-8 .
  • Michael Braun: Hugo Ball. The magical bishop of the avant-garde. Das Wunderhorn, Heidelberg 2011, ISBN 978-3-88423-364-1 .
  • Reto Caluori: Hugo Ball . In: Andreas Kotte (Ed.): Theater Lexikon der Schweiz . Volume 1, Chronos, Zurich 2005, ISBN 3-0340-0715-9 , p. 104 f.
  • Eugen Egger: Hugo Ball. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland . 3rd May 2017 .
  • Eckhard Fürlus: Anarchy and Mysticism. Dissertation Free University of Berlin 2011. Kadmos, Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-86599-248-2 .
  • Christoph Schmidt: The apocalypse of the subject. Aesthetic subjectivity and political theology in Hugo Ball. Aisthesis, Bielefeld 2003, ISBN 3-89528-313-4 .
  • Ruth Schaumann:  Ball, Hugo. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 1, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1953, ISBN 3-428-00182-6 , pp. 559 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Franz Siepe : "Mother of Purification". Marian sediments in Hugo Ball's Byzantine Christianity. In: Hugo Ball Almanach. New episode 5/2014, pp. 160–180.
  • Wiebke-Marie Stock: A fall in thought. Hugo Ball. An intellectual biography. Wallstein, Göttingen 2012, ISBN 978-3-8353-1184-8 .
  • Ernst Teubner: Hugo Ball. A bibliography. von Hase and Koehler, Mainz 1992, ISBN 3-7758-1260-1 .
  • Alfred Sobel: "Good marriages are made in hell". The wild life of the artist couple Hugo Ball and Emmy Hennings between Dadaism and faith. Fe-Medienverlag, Kißlegg 2015, ISBN 978-3-86357-120-7 .
  • Bernd Wacker: Dionysios DADA Areopagita. Hugo Ball and the Critique of Modernism. Schöningh, Paderborn 1996, ISBN 3-506-79505-8 .
  • Sabine Werner-Birkenbach: Hugo Ball and Hermann Hesse - a friendship that turns into literature. Comments and analyzes on correspondence, autobiographical writings and Ball's Hesse biography. Akademischer Verlag, Stuttgart 1995, ISBN 3-88099-316-5 .
  • Cornelius Zehetner: Hugo Ball. Portrait of a philosophy. Turia & Kant, Vienna 2000, ISBN 3-85132-246-0 .
  • Eva Zimmermann, Bernhard Echte, Regina Bucher (eds.): Hugo Ball. Poet, thinker, Dadaist. Nimbus, Wädenswil 2007, ISBN 978-3-907142-19-6 .

Web links

Commons : Hugo Ball  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Hugo Ball  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Ernst Teubner: Hugo Ball (1886–1986) life and work. Wasgauhalle Pirmasens, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus Munich, Kunsthaus Zürich, Publica Verlag, 1986, ISBN 3-89087-036-8 , p. 45. Quote: "I was born of parents who were equally true Catholics as enthusiastic Germans [...] ".
  2. ^ History of the old language grammar school Pirmasens
  3. Gerhard Schaub (Ed.): Hugo Ball, Briefe 1904–1927. Volume 1, Wallstein Verlag, 2003, ISBN 3-89244-701-2 , p. 44.
  4. ^ Eugen Egger: Hugo Ball. In: Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz . May 3, 2017 , accessed April 30, 2020 .
  5. ^ The sister of his friend August Hofmann was employed as a teacher in Schnaitsee. She got Ball "a nice room in a farmer's villa".
  6. Hugo Ball: The artist and the sickness of time . Ed .: Hans Burkhard Schlichting. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1988, ISBN 3-518-38022-2 .
  7. Eckhard Fürlus: Anarchy and Mysticism. Dissertation Free University of Berlin 2011. Kadmos, Berlin 2014, pp. 120f.
  8. Andreas Dorschel : Saint Hermann. The correspondence between the poet Hesse and the Ball couple. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung No. 292 (December 19, 2003), p. 16.
  9. Thomas Hürlimann honored with Hugo Ball Prize , Frankfurter Rundschau, March 10, 2014, p. 22.
  10. Hugo Ball adorns the Swiss postage stamp ,, accessed on February 23, 2016
  11. , accessed on November 27, 2016
  12. ^ BR radio play Pool - Ball, Tenderenda der Phantast