A Hunger Artist (Kafka)

Guy in a black leotard. In a cage. Not eating. Weird? Yes. Popular? Absolutely. Kafka's short story includes iconic artist-figures: a mouse singer, a trapeze artist, and of course, the hunger artist. Through these characters, Kafka explores how art relates to real life, the conflict between the artist and society, and the cost of artistic perfection.

AuthorKafka - Franz Kafka
Early 20th-Century LiteratureAll Early 20th-Century Literature
Early 20th-Century World Literature
FormShort Story
LanguageEnglish Language
LiteratureWorld Literature
ThemesArt and Culture
Isolation
Life, Consciousness, and Existence
Suffering

Transcript

00:18

as "the 1980's."

00:19

If you've never heard of the 1980's, ask your parents. They can tell you stories.

00:21

So... if these folks were such a big deal at one point in time...

00:23

...why did their fame fizzle? In Franz Kafka's A Hunger Artist...

00:27

... we are introduced to a man who is famous for losing weight.

00:30

He was kind of the "Jared" of his time. For a while, he tours Europe and experiences

00:34

incredible success...

00:35

...his presence always causing throngs of people to come and gawk through the bars of

00:40

his cage. But suddenly... the crowds thin.

00:42

He is no longer the mega-star he once was.

00:44

What happened? Did his act simply get old?

00:47

There's probably only so much staring-at-a-starving-person an audience can do before they find themselves

00:52

wanting more.

00:57

So it could be that his act was just as... fresh as ever...

01:00

...but he fell victim to his followers' short attention spans.

01:05

Or was it less his fans' fault... than his own?

01:07

True, all he had to do was sit there in his cage and... not eat...

01:11

...but surely he must have been better at... not eating... then all those other ... hacks..

01:19

Why else would his star have risen so high?

01:22

Is it possible he just got tired of the whole process and started phoning it in?

01:26

No one wants to spend good money to watch someone starve...

01:30

...when it's quite clear they'd rather be somewhere else.

01:34

Maybe our hunger artist was replaced.

01:36

He might have been on top of his game, and his fans might have been sticking loyally

01:41

by his side...

01:42

...but if everyone suddenly got a taste of the next big thing...

01:44

...maybe he just got kicked to the curb.

01:47

Which could explain why this guy is no longer considered "A-list."

01:51

So what was to blame for a drop in our artist's ticket sales?

01:54

An old, tired act?

01:56

Fickle fans?

01:57

Or the next big thing? Shmoop amongst yourselves.