A Hunger Artist
by Franz Kafka
A Hunger Artist Art and Culture Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Paragraph) We used Stanley Corngold's translation.
[…] amid some comic banter, designed to distract attention from the artist's condition; a toast to the public, which had allegedly been whispered to the manager by the starvation artist […] (3)
With all of the manager's manipulations of the artist's performance, it seems that the artist's popularity doesn't have anything to do with his art, but is due to the spectacle that his manager engineers.
[…] one day the pampered starvation artist found himself abandoned by the crowds of pleasure seekers […] Certainly the time for starving, as for all things, would come again, but that was no consolation to the living. (5)
As in Quote #1, the narrator remains tight-lipped as to why the popularity of starvation art declines. By describing the crowd as "pleasure-seekers," the story suggests that the decline in popularity may have something to do with the fact that no one finds pleasure in his performance. (Hmm… is this really surprising?) This quote also seems to suggest that there's something cyclical about the demand for starvation art – sometimes it's popular, sometimes it's not. In other words, it has nothing to do with the artists themselves.
A great circus with its innumerable performers and animals and contraptions, forever balancing and supplementing one another, can find work for anybody at any time […] (6)
The circus almost sounds like the perfect society; it's got a place for everybody, including oddities such as the hunger artist. It might also be interesting to compare the circus to the bureaucracies in Kafka's work, most notably in The Trial. Kafka's bureaucracies, like the circus here, are huge institutions with myriad workers, whose usefulness is often mysterious and debatable.