A native of Brooklyn, New York, David Ball earned his Doctorat en Littérature Générale et Comparée from the Université de Paris-III (Sorbonne Nouvelle) in 1971, his Licence ès Lettres from the Université de Paris (Sorbonne) in 1964, and retired from Smith College as Professor Emeritus of French and Comparative Literature in 2002.
Since then, Ball has published articles on translation (English versions of Oscar Wilde's French "Salomé"), writing in France in May '68 (in French Politics, Culture and Society), under German occupation (one in French, in Raison Présente); on a contemporary British poet (Tom Raworth) and an American one (Anne Sexton); and on francophone literature (the latter with Nicole Ball).
He has published six book-length translations since retirement, most recently Transit and Passage of Tears, two novels by the French-Djiboutian novelist Abdourahman A. Waberi (with Nicole Ball) and Alfred Jarry's play Ubu the King (Ubu roi) in the Norton Anthology of Drama. The others include two books by Pierre Loti and works by James Sacré, Henri Michaux and Pablo Picasso. His own poetry can be found in eight chapbooks and many small literary magazines.
With Nicole Ball, his translation of Abdourahman A. Waberi's novel Aux États-Unis d'Afrique/In the United States of Africa was awarded a grant by the Cultural Service of the French Embassy and appeared in its "French Voices" series in 2009 (University of Nebraska Press.) He is currently at work, with Nicole Ball, on another translation of a contemporary French novel with a grant in the "French Voices" series; and, under a Mellon Emeritus Fellowship, on translating and annotating Jean Guéhenno's Diary of the Dark Years—that is, the years under Nazi Occupation, to be published in 2014 by Oxford University Press. He was president of the American Literary Translators Association from 2003-05.