Kafka's "A Hunger Artist"

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  • Topic: Franz Kafka, A Hunger Artist, Richard Greenberg
  • Pages : 3 (1064 words )
  • Download(s) : 183
  • Published : October 5, 2005
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In Franz Kafka's "A Hunger Artist," the author speaks about his method of writing; his affliction that mirrors that of a person who fasts. Throughout his prose, he tells the story of a man who-- while others in his time flaunt their skills in living and in cheating death-- has mastered the art of dying. In his own time, Kafka was never famous for his writing. In 1922, around the time he retired from a Czechoslovakia insurance company for which he was a lawyer, he wrote "A Hunger Artist." He had been diagnosed with tuberculosis a few years earlier, and died just two years after penning the story. Throughout his lifetime he felt compelled to write, yet he believed that his work was unworthy of any praise. To him, his need to write drove him and pained him at the same time, much like the Hunger Artist's work propelled and tortured the character simultaneously. This connection is vital in understanding why Kafka writes this story the way he does: the contrast between necessity and pain in his life is also a major theme in "A Hunger Artist." Kafka's method of writing describes the plight of the Artist: the prose is anti-climactic and dreary; his thoughts run together like those of the faster and amount to an allusion to Kafka's own affliction with writing. In actuality, the Hunger Artist is Kafka, and the character's tortured, addicted, and frail body mimics Kafka's mind as a writer.

Early in the story, Kafka sets the dreary tone which doubly mirrors the melancholy lifestyle of the Hunger Artist. In the first paragraph, Kafka introduces the reader to the art of fasting and its place in society at that time. In the fourth sentence, he unloads 17 lines of streaming prose and discusses the details of a typical fast in its heyday: "At one time the whole town took a lively interest in the hunger artist," through "now and then taking a sip from a tiny glass of water to moisten his lips" (462). This sentence contains seven different thoughts-- each expanding on...
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