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IlanaSimons
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Hunger Artist

Hi. I'm adding our next story to this group, "A Hunger Artist." Below are four questions that can spark discussion. Also feel free to launch your own question.


1. Try to read the story as a riff on the biblical martyr. What religious symbols does Kafka evoke? How does he play with them, and why?

2. What sense do you make of the panther’s “freedom” in the end? Who’s freer: conscious humans or mindless animals?

2. The Hunger Artist is a man who dies thinking “I’m utterly unlike anyone.” For a minute, be critical of his psychology: How would you describe this guy’s basic assumptions about himself and the world? Is the Hunger Artist’s journey one of pure or misguided intentions?

3. How do you read the hunger artist’s famous last lines—that he could find no food he liked?

4. Why is this character nameless?



Ilana
Check out my book, here and visit my website, here.


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LizzieAnn
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Re: Hunger Artist

Hey there - still muddling & struggling through Kafka. He definitely looks at life unlike anyone else I've ever read. So as to "A Hunger artist"

1. A biblical martyr? Suffering...self sacrifice...trying to get the attention of an ambivalent people. Also, the manager/impressario limits the hunger artist's fast to 40 days - equivalent to the 40 days of Lent when Christ fasted. One of the definitions of a martyr according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary is: "VICTIM; especially : a great or constant sufferer" The hunger artist is definitely this - a victim of himself - suffering both greatly and constantly until he finally starves himself to death.

2. Freedom of man vs. panther - interesting. Somehow on a lot of levels, the panther ("mindless animals") have a degree of freedom that humans don't. They act strictly on instinct - no questioning of conscience, no weight right and wrong, no real responsibilities. Yet, on the other hand, no choices either. How free are you without the ability to make choices. It's like trying to compare apples and oranges - it's different freedom for each.

3. I think his journey is a misguided one. I'm not quite sure what he hopes to accomplish by his continued fasting. Neither his fasting or death accomplish anything. He may have felt his journey was a "pure" one, but the only thing that's pure is that he "died for his art." - yet at the end he makes an attempt at rationalization.

4. By his last words, he tries to justify his fasting. It's as if he realizes that what he has done was futile, and yet lost the ability to stop. So he tries to rationalize his actions to make it understandable. It's a eating disorder. He chose to fast; then he chose to push himself further - believing he had control over it; but, in the end, the fasting controlled him.

5. He came be nameless for 2 reasons: (1) He can be anyone; and (2) He can be no one - those people who society loses track of & who disappear off the grid, so to speak.

I know I probably got this all wrong - but I'm trying. :smileyhappy:
Liz ♥ ♥


Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested. ~ Francis Bacon
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IlanaSimons
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Re: Hunger Artist

But there IS no right and wrong...that's why we love literature!
that said: good answers!

I'm going to insert my own workds into your repsonse....


LizzieAnn wrote:

1. A biblical martyr? Suffering...self sacrifice...40 days - equivalent to the 40 days of Lent when Christ fasted.

so true. I'm also wondering if people see the dead body in the straw like Christ in the manger and if the panther, rising from the ashes, evokes a biblical symbol. Also...maybe: Does the refusal to take bread looks a refusal of the Eucharist? Here, the martyr fails to make anything different in his world. Kafka shows how futile the martyr's impulse is.

2. Freedom of man vs. panther. It's like trying to compare apples and oranges

Nice point

3. I think his journey is a misguided one.

I see this: It's as if the artist is thrilled with the initial rewards of thinking "I'm original; I'm different" but doesn't understand the downside of sustaining that belief.

His final words--I could find nothing to eat that I liked--is a sort of refusal of everything that's not-me. It's a depression that comes from exalted egoism.

Nice answers. I'd like to hear what others pick up in here....



Ilana
Check out my book, here and visit my website, here.


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beshockley
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Re: Hunger Artist



IlanaSimons wrote:
Hi. I'm adding our next story to this group, "A Hunger Artist." Below are four questions that can spark discussion. Also feel free to launch your own question.


1. Try to read the story as a riff on the biblical martyr. What religious symbols does Kafka evoke? How does he play with them, and why?

2. What sense do you make of the panther’s “freedom” in the end? Who’s freer: conscious humans or mindless animals?

2. The Hunger Artist is a man who dies thinking “I’m utterly unlike anyone.” For a minute, be critical of his psychology: How would you describe this guy’s basic assumptions about himself and the world? Is the Hunger Artist’s journey one of pure or misguided intentions?

3. How do you read the hunger artist’s famous last lines—that he could find no food he liked?

4. Why is this character nameless?





Nice posts LizzieAnn:

Here is my impression on this story. IMO Parable: Artist needing validation in their uniqueness. Even when the uniqueness is a depravity of disposition.

1. I did not see his behavior as a riff but rather a reverence by imitation toward the great historical spiritual sages. His intention is to draw people's attention to him so as to equate likeness in being, or greatness in character. This is why he is disgusted with the doubters or naysayers and they only drive him further to pureness in his starving behavior.

3. The first part of this question is an interesting one? I wonder if Kafka is trying to state in this story: Artist as a means of self preservation, become utterly self absorbed with the high opinion of there own creativity and unique understanding of life; that they then in destructive self delusion transcend the masses, while needing the adoration and validation of the masses to remain transcendent. I see his journey as pure in form but misguided in his intentions.

4. The secret is out; he could only do what he was designed to do. His uniqueness was not so much a gift as a lack of normalcy. His gift - lack of appetite - was normal to him, but yet this is abnormal behavior. So instead of denying it and masquerading as a normal person, he embraces his gift - pureness of form - but seeks the admiration of his fellow man - misguided intentions. Paraphrased last words: If I could be normal I would be normal.


2. Metaphoric: Contrasting external and internal cages: The panther was not free, he was in a cage, but his disposition is normal and thus free- just being a panther - ferocious with or without the cage-and people validate that by keeping him in the cage. The artist's is in the cage as well, but his disposition is abnormal and thus enslaved - and he can never escape this disposition, he starves with or without the cage - but the outward cage and the lighted stage are only props and a ruse, for there is no validation form humanity that you are born to starve - thus his intentions are misguided.

5. Nameless, so as to represent all artists.
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IlanaSimons
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Re: Hunger Artist

Thanks for this very clear and full discussion, beshockley. I really like what you say about the frustrations of abnormality: If the artist could have eaten like the others, his life would have been easier, but his personality caged him.
Great answers
Ilana



beshockley wrote:


IlanaSimons wrote:
Hi. I'm adding our next story to this group, "A Hunger Artist." Below are four questions that can spark discussion. Also feel free to launch your own question.


1. Try to read the story as a riff on the biblical martyr. What religious symbols does Kafka evoke? How does he play with them, and why?

2. What sense do you make of the panther’s “freedom” in the end? Who’s freer: conscious humans or mindless animals?

2. The Hunger Artist is a man who dies thinking “I’m utterly unlike anyone.” For a minute, be critical of his psychology: How would you describe this guy’s basic assumptions about himself and the world? Is the Hunger Artist’s journey one of pure or misguided intentions?

3. How do you read the hunger artist’s famous last lines—that he could find no food he liked?

4. Why is this character nameless?





Nice posts LizzieAnn:

Here is my impression on this story. IMO Parable: Artist needing validation in their uniqueness. Even when the uniqueness is a depravity of disposition.

1. I did not see his behavior as a riff but rather a reverence by imitation toward the great historical spiritual sages. His intention is to draw people's attention to him so as to equate likeness in being, or greatness in character. This is why he is disgusted with the doubters or naysayers and they only drive him further to pureness in his starving behavior.

3. The first part of this question is an interesting one? I wonder if Kafka is trying to state in this story: Artist as a means of self preservation, become utterly self absorbed with the high opinion of there own creativity and unique understanding of life; that they then in destructive self delusion transcend the masses, while needing the adoration and validation of the masses to remain transcendent. I see his journey as pure in form but misguided in his intentions.

4. The secret is out; he could only do what he was designed to do. His uniqueness was not so much a gift as a lack of normalcy. His gift - lack of appetite - was normal to him, but yet this is abnormal behavior. So instead of denying it and masquerading as a normal person, he embraces his gift - pureness of form - but seeks the admiration of his fellow man - misguided intentions. Paraphrased last words: If I could be normal I would be normal.


2. Metaphoric: Contrasting external and internal cages: The panther was not free, he was in a cage, but his disposition is normal and thus free- just being a panther - ferocious with or without the cage-and people validate that by keeping him in the cage. The artist's is in the cage as well, but his disposition is abnormal and thus enslaved - and he can never escape this disposition, he starves with or without the cage - but the outward cage and the lighted stage are only props and a ruse, for there is no validation form humanity that you are born to starve - thus his intentions are misguided.

5. Nameless, so as to represent all artists.





Ilana
Check out my book, here and visit my website, here.


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donyskiw
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Re: Hunger Artist

Here's an interesting look at it. Christ dying in the straw instead of being born in it and the hunger artist refusing bread (the Eucharist) instead of taking it.

Denise
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IlanaSimons
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Re: Hunger Artist



donyskiw wrote:
Here's an interesting look at it. Christ dying in the straw instead of being born in it and the hunger artist refusing bread (the Eucharist) instead of taking it.

Denise




right on. The paradigm's inverted. The martyr here has an Idea but the idea is deluded, and he changes no one by pursuing it with such fanatical ardor.



Ilana
Check out my book, here and visit my website, here.


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donyskiw
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Re: Hunger Artist

Which is the answer to the first question: he's a biblical martyr but he martyr image is somehow inverted. Leave it to Kafka to come up with this idea!

Denise
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donyskiw
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Re: Hunger Artist

1. Inverted biblical martyr (we already discussed this above).

2. The panther is free from having to make decisions. In physical terms, conscious humans are freer, they can go where they please, they don't have to live in cages. The hunger artist chose to live in the cage, the panther had no say in the matter. However, mindless animals are free from having to make decisions and conscious animals are not. Not having to make decisions is a freedom itself, although not one many would choose (depending on who is making the decisions for you).

2.part 2. This person is of misguided intentions. He is denying what it is to be human. Humans eat food and live to their potential. What he is doing is separating himself from the body he is living in (which is dependent on eating to live). He seems to be effecting some sort of mind/body split. The end effect is premature death - end of the organism.

3. The last words of the hunger artist seem to be a statement on his stubbornness. We all have things about our life we don't like but we do for long life. I'd rather not exercise if it wasn't good for me. Kafka may have been writing a story that evolved out of his not wanting to shave every morning.

4. This character could have been anyone having something he/she didn't like to do that was necessary for living but they neglected it to their detriment. Maybe Kafka knew someone whose life was shortened because he/she didn't take care of themself. It could even be a story about excess (alcoholism, gluttony, etc.) that Kafka turned around (while he was turning the martyr image around).

Denise
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IlanaSimons
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Re: Hunger Artist



donyskiw wrote:
3. The last words of the hunger artist seem to be a statement on his stubbornness. We all have things about our life we don't like but we do for long life. I'd rather not exercise if it wasn't good for me. Kafka may have been writing a story that evolved out of his not wanting to shave every morning.


that's insightful. This story shows how any of us can snap into a self-conception that snowballs to trap us. If I wake up every day saying, "I'm a teacher" or "I'm a Republican," I don't stay open to seeing outside that paradigm.



Ilana
Check out my book, here and visit my website, here.


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donyskiw
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Re: Hunger Artist

Kafka seems to take a lot of the everyday things and grow them into stories. There's often something very absurd going on - a sense of exageration.

Denise
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