A Hunger Artist

Franz Kafka's grave in Prague-Žižkov.
Franz Kafka’s grave in Prague-Žižkov. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Franz Kafka (1883–1924); 7 pages.

As the title suggests, this story is about an artist whose medium is his own hunger. He fasts. During his youth, people appreciated his work. He would sit in a cage and people would come by and watch him during his fast. He always wanted to have a chance to go longer than 40 days, but that was never allowed. He would be pulled out of his cage and given food to eat.

As he grew older, people grew less interested in hunger artists. He was too old to change careers, so had to settle for joining a circus. At the circus, he was positioned en route to the animal menagerie. People rushed passed his cage and barely noticed him. The ones who lingered, lingered merely out of pure stubbornness, not  wanting to be pushed by the crowd, not out of real interest or appreciation.

As the days passed, no one even bothered to keep track of his fast. Even the hunger artist didn’t know what records he was breaking. In the end, he was forgotten about and only discovered when the circus owners wanted to fill the cage with a panther. Then he was found, still alive, but not for long. He said he had never had any food he liked and that’s why he was able to fast.

I’m a little stumped on how to analyze this story. It reminded me a little of being in the workforce and how careers can progress. It charts success and decline. One gets too old to be trained for a new profession. Choices evaporate. One becomes depressing and because of this, uninteresting.

So, for an uplifting read, try A Hunger Artist. 😉

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