PRINT February 1974

“Dada”: a Code for Saints?

A word was born, no one knows how.

—Tristan Tzara


THERE IS NO STRONGER LINK between the respectable world of professional scholarship and the far more glamorous world of fictional intrigue than in the case of disputed inventions. What follows is concerned with the word “Dada,” with the conditions of its discovery, and with the kinds of meaning that were attached to it.

A disputed invention in Dada is unlikely to produce a definite solution. It is as well to say this from the start. Much of the evidence is either hearsay or circumstantial; the. witnesses change their stories; and all of the suspects are only too keen to confess.

Perhaps the topic itself is not all that important to our understanding of the Dada movement. Hans Arp thought so. “Only imbeciles and Spanish professors can take an interest in dates,” he wrote on this very subject. “What interests us is the Dada spirit and we were

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