The hunger artist by Franz Kafka was first published in 1924. The hunger artist expresses the feeling of loss of identity, pervasiveness, guilt and the sense of evil that permeates the sense of ruling powers. It also expresses the unease that Kafka went through during his lifetime. Kafka’s Prague was a civilized cosmopolitan city in Europe but very hostile to Jews. As a Jew in Prague, he distrusts the authority (Kafka 1952). Kafka was segregated from the mainstream society and lived in a ghetto. The hunger artist symbolizes the sufferings that Germans were going through under the reign of Adolf Hitler. The artist decides to use starvation as his means of expression since it is known that food is essential for survival. Once one is denied food, survival becomes compromised.
There is a close relationship between an artist and his audience. While the artist performs, the audience listens and watches as a way of entertaining themselves. However, the artist has to do things that are familiar to the audience so that it appears real. When Kafka is staffing him, the audience just watches and wonders if he shall not eat anything. The suspense that Kafka creates is what maintains the attention of the audience. His ribs were sticking out conspicuously. It the cage the artist would sometimes node politely and stick out his arms through the bars of the cage to make the audience feel how emaciated he was. He sipped from a tiny glass of water to moisten his lips. He did not pay attention to anything (.Kafka 1952). For adults, they watched it since they just saw it as a joke. He was annoyed by any spectator who doubted his fasting. The forty day fasting was imposed on the hunger artist by his promoter. Kafka expresses the world’s indifference through the plight of the hunger artist. An artist must always establish a relationship with the audience or else the work will lose meaning.
No one took his trouble seriously. They were wondering what comfort he could probably need. They thought he could wish for nothing else. To the artist, there was no limit for fasting. The impresario praises the artist ability to fast and assures the public that the artist could fast even longer than that. This is quite inhuman. The impresario counters any effort of the artist to seek mercy from the audience by reassuring them that the artist’s melancholy was due to the irritability brought about by fasting. The majority of the audience enjoyed when the artist was suffering. This clearly indicates that suffering has to be involved if the artist wishes to hold the attention of the audience.
The prose version of the story depicts the suffering that the hunger artist is going through step by step under the supervision of the impresario. The prose form is more effective because it shows the reaction of the audience and the actions of the impresario even as the hunter artist is undergoing lots of suffering due to the fasting that the impresario imposed on him. Crumb & Mairowitz graphic novel tells the hard life that Kafka went through in his entire life time. He did not marry and as such, he was taken as an outcast of the society since his society valued family and marriage so much. However he succeeds to go through the challenges and emerge a hero since he was the son of a hero. The father is portrayed with blank eyes. “He’s still a giant, my father” (Mairowitz 2004). Kafka’s novel therefore tells about his own life and foretells the kind of death he was to die.
Kafka, A Hunger Artist (e-text). (n.d.). Retrieved from https://records.viu.ca/~Johnstoi/kafka/hungerartist.htm
Kafka, F., Muir, W., Muir, E., & Rahv, P. (1952). Selected short stories of Franz Kafka. New York: Modern Library.
Mairowitz, D. Z., & Crumb, R. (2004). R. Crumb's Kafka. New York: Ibooks.