A Hunger Artist
Author: Franz Kafka
Last Read: 7/2017
Kafka certainly is a strange one. A Hunger Artist is a short story about a man who travels from town to town while putting on fasting displays. The hunger artist becomes famous, though he remains eternally unhappy and dissatisfied. Eventually the masses lose interest in fasting feats and hunger artists. He manages to perform one last fasting feat as a circus act.
If you're looking for an interesting short story with an interesting ending, check out A Hunger Artist.
It was, however, merely a formality, introduced to reassure the masses, for those who understood knew well enough that during the period of fasting the hunger artist would never, under any circumstances, have eaten the slightest thing, not even if compelled by force. The honour of his art forbade it. Naturally, none of the watchers understood that.
For, in fact, no one was in a position to spend time watching the hunger artist every day and night, so no one could know, on the basis of his own observation, whether this was a case of truly uninterrupted, flawless fasting. The hunger artist himself was the only one who could know that and, at the same time, the only spectator capable of being completely satisfied with his own fasting. But the reason he was never satisfied was something different. Perhaps it was not fasting at all which made him so very emaciated that many people, to their own regret, had to stay away from his performance, because they couldn't bear to look at him. For he was also so skeletal out of dissatisfaction with himself, because he alone knew something that even initiates didn't know -- how easy it was to fast. It was the easiest thing in the world. About this he did not remain silent, but people did not believe him.
But this dissatisfaction kept gnawing at his insides all the time and never yet -- and this one had to say to his credit -- had he left the cage of his own free will after any period of fasting.
And he looked up into the eyes of these women, apparently so friendly but in reality so cruel, and shook his excessively heavy head on his feeble neck.
Then a toast was proposed to the public, which was supposedly whispered to the impresario by the hunger artist, the orchestra confirmed everything with a great fanfare, people dispersed, and no one had the right to be dissatisfied with the event, no one except the hunger artist -- he was always the only one.
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