Skip to main content

David Ball

Professor Emeritus of French Language & Literature and Comparative Literature

David Ball


Tilly 104


David Ball retired from Smith College in 2002.

Since his retirement, he has published articles on translation, 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 more than a twenty book-length translations since retirement, often with his collaborator Nicole Ball. Patrick Rambaud, The Master, appeared in 2023 and Abdourahman A. Waberi, Why Do You Dance When You Walk? (Winner, English PEN Award) in 2023, both translated by David and Nicole Ball. His Jean Guéhenno, Diary of the Dark Years (Oxford University Press), which he also edited, annotated and introduced, won the French-American Foundation/Florence Gould Foundation 2014 translation prize for nonfiction. His earlier translation, Darkness Moves: An Henri Michaux Anthology 1927-1984 (University of California Press) won MLA's 1995 prize for outstanding literary translation."

With Nicole Ball, he translated Lola Lafon’s We Are the Birds of the Coming Storm as well as Transit and Passage of Tears, two novels by the French-Djiboutian novelist Abdourahman A. Waberi, and more recently, Waberi's The Divine SongEfina, by the Swiss writer Noëlle Revaz, followed. In 2020, David was the translator for the French-Israeli novelist Marco Koskas' Goodbye Paris, Shalom Tel Aviv. 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.

His translation of Waberi's novel Aux États-Unis d'Afrique/In the United States of Africa (also with Nicole Ball) 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 also published their translation of Laurent Mauvignier's novel about the Algerian War, The Wound, in 2015 with another "French Voices" grant. After their translation of an anthology of French noir stories, Marseille Noir (2015), they published Michèle Lesbre, The Red Sofa (Le divan rouge) in 2017 with Seagull Books (Calcutta/London). David’s translation of the art book by James Sacré, Ta solitude éblouie / Your Solitude, Dazzled, appeared in 2016.

David Ball was named Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques by the French Republic in September 2017. He was president of The American Literary Translators Association from 2003–05.

Recent Publications


Roger Gilbert-Lecomte, Coma Crossing: Collected Poems. Translated, annotated and introduced by David Ball, Schism Books, 2019. 286 pp.

Léon Werth, Deposition 1940-1944A Secret Diary of Life in Vichy France, translated and edited by David Ball, Oxford University Press, 2018. 355 pp.


“L’Impossible n’est pas toujours sûr : traduire James Sacré,” Europe, May 2018, pp. 213-216.

“A Jewish Writer Kept a Secret Diary During the Nazi Occupation of France. It Offers an Important Lesson About History.” Time, May 2, 2018.




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