David Ball

Professor Emeritus of French Language & Literature and Comparative Literature

Contact & Office Hours

Tilly Hall 202



Ph.D., Université de Paris-III (Sorbonne Nouvelle)

Licence ès Lettres, Université de Paris (Sorbonne)


David Ball retired from Smith College in 2002. Since then, he has published articles on translation (English versions of Oscar Wilde's French Salomé), on writing in France in May ’68 (in French Politics, Culture and Society), and 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 a dozen book-length translations since retirement. His Jean Guéhenno's Diary of the Dark Years (Oxford University Press), which he also edited, annotated and introduced (work supported by a Mellon Emeritus fellowship), won the French-American Foundation/Florence Gould Foundation 2014 translation prize for nonfiction.

With Nicole Ball, he translated Transit and Passage of Tears, two novels by the French-Djiboutian novelist Abdourahman A. Waberi, and Efina by the Swiss writer Noëlle Revaz. His version of Alfred Jarry's play Ubu roi (Ubu the King) appeared in the Norton Anthology of Drama, and he has translated works by Pierre Loti and poetry by James Sacré and Henri Michaux. His Darkness Moves: An Henri Michaux Anthology 1927-1984 (University of California Press) won the MLA's prize for outstanding literary translation in 1995. His own poetry can be found in eight chapbooks and many small literary magazines.

With Nicole Ball, his translation of 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 with University of Nebraska Press, which published their translation of Laurent Mauvignier's novel about the Algerian War, The Wound, in 2015—also with a "French Voices" grant. Their most recent translation is an anthology of French noir stories, Marseille Noir (Akashic Books, 2015).

Ball was president of The American Literary Translators Association from 2003–05.