Emmy Hennings rediscovered

A poster for Cabaret Voltaire (source: Wikimedia)

The literary author and cabaret artist Emmy Hennings (or Emmy Ball-Hennings) was one of the most fascinating figures in German literary life in the first half of the 20th century. Born in 1885, she worked in a variety of jobs before becoming a cabaret artist touring Germany, performing in famous venues such as Simplicissimus in Munich or Café Grössenwahn in Berlin. While in Munich she became a contributor to the literary magazine Simplicissimus and met her future husband, Hugo Ball. The pair moved to Zurich where in 1916, together with other artists, they founded Cabaret Voltaire, one of the key institutions of the Dada movement. At Cabaret Voltaire she became the star of the evening performances. The couple married in 1920 but Hugo Ball died in 1927. After his death she devoted her energy to editing and issuing his works. She herself died in 1948 in Sorengo in Switzerland. Continue reading

On the fringes of Dada in Berlin

It seems to be almost a running joke that British people find it difficult to name a famous Belgian. This post highlights a major work of an important and influential 20th century Flemish poet who should definitely be more widely known and who was briefly on the periphery of the Dada movement in Berlin after World War I.

Paul van Ostaijen in Germany, 1920 via Wikimedia Commons

Paul van Ostaijen (1896-1928) was from Antwerp where he gained a reputation as a dandy within bohemian circles. He was a political activist for the Flemish independence movement, and his flight to Berlin at the very end of World War I meant that he escaped a short delayed prison sentence, imposed earlier that year for demonstrating against the pro-French speaking Cardinal Mercier. He was already a published poet and critic, and during the two and a half years that he spent in Berlin he wrote perhaps his most important work, Bezette stad, published in 1921 and described in a recent translation into English as “one of the key works of the Dadaist movement”. Continue reading