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“Universe” – Melchior Vischer’s Texts for the DADAGLOBE Anthology (Part 6)

Prague Dadaist Melchior Vischer (1895-1975; for more info see here and here) was a prominent figure in early 20s Prague’s artistic scene. After serving briefly in WW1 and then graduating from Charles University, Vischer worked as a theatre critic for the major daily Praguer Presse, where he was an early champion of the work of Franz Werfel, Robert Musil, and Franz Kafka. During the mid-’20s, Vischer and his actress wife Eva Segaljewitsch staged productions of experimental theatre, including Karel Čapek’s R.U.R.The Brno critic Ernst Weiß, meanwhile, writing in Das Tagebuch, compared Second Through Brain in its significance to the innovations of Cézanne, adding: “In every line of this extraordinary work there’s the effortless gift of grace: poetry… Dada is a form, Dada itself is a form for a poet.” 

“A bomb which has to burst open with infection the skulls of our dear ‘bourgeoisie.’”

Vischer’s correspondence with Tzara began in late 1918, with Vischer’s polite letter of greetings apprising Tzara of his plan to start the first Dada journal in Prague. A year later (in January 1920) Vischer wrote again, this time with the manuscript of his “Merzroman” aka Sekunde durch Hirn (an allusion to Kurt Schwitters’s “Merz” collages), inquiring if the dada papa couldn’t be tempted to read it. Vischer’s expectations from his dada alignment were nothing short of earth-shattering: in a French salutation to Tzara and Picabia from April 1920, Vischer announces the publication of Sekunde as no less than “a bomb which has to burst open with infection the skulls of our dear ‘bourgeoisie.’” [1]

However lopsided, the Vischer/Tzara correspondence did yield one tangible result. In the summer of 1921, Tzara set out for Czechoslovakia, hoping to gain adherents for his cause at a time when internal strife within the dada group was beginning to jeopardise the future of the entire movement. Tzara’s biographer Marius Hentea records Tzara’s visit to Carlsbad and Prague, which included a meeting with “Melchior Vischer, one of the leading Czech Dadaists,” but yielded “no concrete plans” and Tzara continued on to Tyrol in September. [2]

[1] Vischer, Unveröffentlichte Briefe und Gedichte, ed. Raoul Schrott [Siegen, 1988] 7.

[2] Marius Hentea, TaTa Dada: The Real Life and Celestial Adventures of Tristan Tzara (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 2014) 171.

Dadaglobe Reconstructed

Until recently, the few critics writing on Vischer raised doubts even as to whether Tzara seriously considered Vischer for the Dadaglobe project, in fact whether he considered the project itself with view toward anything more substantial than self-promotion. These doubts have been definitively put to rest with the 2016 publication, at the Kunsthaus Zürich, of Dadaglobe Reconstructed, a monumental archival compendium approximating as much as possible the shape and form of Tzara’s intended project.

Dadaglobe Reconstructed makes it clear that not only was Vischer integral to Tzara’s project from the get-go (his name featuring right next to Tzara’s in the PR material for New York Dada or April 1921) but all his six anecdotal dada sketches indeed reached their destination and were planned for inclusion. They’re not without humour and typical provocative dada self-propaganda, and have been serialised here over the course of the past couple of weeks. For texts nos. 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5, see here, herehere, here, and here.

The raging people with dynamo machines for heads & tails of loud steel..

The final of Vischer’s 6 texts sent to Tzara for DADAGLOBE, “Universe” is the most expressionist of his pieces, presenting a very evocative eschatological vision of the end of the world. It can be read as an answer to Jakob van Hoddis’ famous poem “Weltende“, with Vischer transforming the humourous aspects of van Hoddis’ poem into the grotesque mode. Still, Vischer uses many similar metaphors (locomotives falling, floods raging, onomatopoetic means, dynamic verbs of movement). Also, the raging locomotives motif is reminscent of poems answering the train crash of the Forth-of-Tay-bridge in 1879. As elsewhere, Vischer uses conventional tropes & motifs and détourns them for satirical effect.

Introduced by David Vichnar & Tim König

Melchior Vischer, UNIVERSE

(Dadaglobe Reconstructed [Kunsthaus Zurich, Scheidegger & Spiess, 2016] p. 157)

 He holum holum!

Do you see the raging people

with dynamo machines for heads

& tails of loud steel?


Bellies are spitting, millions-a-sparkling

canonballs in infinite number.

the mountains dance like hot naiads

& suckle tight onto an indissoluble tangle.
Blue dogs eat the globe

& spit out glowing locomotives

racing skywards.
Like idiots let loose

they drink the universe in rage.


& the billygoat stinks hissing

along a tree

& sings like loose larks at the

morning coffee.

Oh rage, locomotive, you skydiver,

burst with a big bang

in the next forest.


Steam, dynamo, car,

room, bath, closet.
The emperor is raging in his kennel.

He, holum, holum,

Bim, bam, boo.

The bells of destiny.
The Maenads fly,

dragging the globe behind them.

& shining suns

pop staggering through black

storm clouds.

Hourglasses scrape day & night,

which nestle together like battle-weary


Holum, holum.

the world is breaking in its fissures,

the pivots crash weakly into the sea

of ​​the universe.

Translated by David Vichnar & Tim König

About Equus Press

EQUUS was established in 2011 with the objective of publishing innovative & translocal writing.


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"Modernity today is not in the hands of the poets, but in the hands of the cops" // Louis Aragon
"It is the business of the future to be dangerous" // A.N. Whitehead

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"Poetism is the crown of life; Constructivism is its basis" // Karel Teige


“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for?…we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us” // Franz Kafka, letter to Oskar Pollack, 27 January 1904
August 2019
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