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1. Whatʼs interesting about Kafka using fasting as an art form?

2. What effect does the Impresario (manager) have on the hunger artistʼs fasting?

3. What is the duty of the people who act as the hunger artistʼs audience? Do they fulfill it or not?

4. What does the contrast between the hunger artist and panther tell us?

1. The artist feels he gains meaning through his suffering, by causing himself pain. He wants to give the world “a performance beyond human imagination”, and wants to push the boundaries of suffering. Whatʼs interesting is that the artist is pushing the limits of not actually doing anything: instead of doing things to cause himself pain, he is merely letting his body waste away through inaction. This is significant because it illuminates how difficult it is for an artist to be satisfied: we can satisfy a hunger; we cannot satisfy a lack of hunger.

It is frustrating for the hunger artist, then, to watch his audience become satisfied themselves. That they are content to momentarily dwell on his place of suffering only intensifies his desire to fast - to him, his fast is arduous and meaningful, requiring more than a momentʼs appreciation. To treat his experience as another piece of fleeting entertainment lumps the hunger artist into the same insulting category as spectacles like those found in circus acts, where he will eventually find himself as a sideshow. Is the kind of hunger that real-world artists experience similar to that found here?

2.. The impresario acts as the hunger artistʼs manager, the business side of things. The hunger artist claims this affects him negatively, restraining his ability to push the limits of his hunger. While the hunger artist would rather fast till death, his impresario sees public interest wanes around 40 days, and cuts his efforts short.

This dynamic represents the need for the hunger artist to make a living while expressing himself, which is problematic because itʼs trying to sell self expression, which does not have a tangible value. Itʼs entertaining, but itʼs not the most entertaining. This forces the hunger artist to tweak his “performance” to what would best please his audience, which in turn causes the artist to resent his audience because of how their presence begins to arbitrarily dilute his art for the audienceʼs sake by introducing elements that the hunger artist believes have no place in his suffering. Still, the hunger artist needs his audience. They are the external appreciation of his artistic achievement.

What does this say about artists and how they relate to their audience? What might Kafka feel about the relation between his art and his audience?

3. The duty of the audience, according to the hunger artist (and possibly Kafka), is to empathize with the hunger artist and thereby momentarily share his suffering, if only for a little bit. The hunger artist feels the audience cannot truly understand his art otherwise. It is when the audience genuinely engages him and he can prove he has not eaten that the hunger artist feels a tinge of satisfaction: seeing his audience watch him curiously, followed by a hearty meal (end of second paragraph) delights the hunger artist because he knows that by satisfying their hunger the audience is forced to churn the human suffering the artist undergoes daily in their minds.

For the most part, the hunger artist is frustrated by his audience. Largely, they do not pay him the mind he feels his “performance” deserves by nature, and when they do, it doesnʼt last. His audience can be compared to drivers on the highway, gawking at the scene of a crash as they drive by: to them, it is a passing spectacle on the road to more immediate entertainment, which is shown near the end of the story as the hunger artist, recognizing his declining fame, submits himself to a circus, where he is placed “not in the middle of the ring as a main attraction, but outside, near the animal cages, on a site that was after all easily accessible… When the public came…they could hardly avoid passing the hunger artistʼs cage and stopping there for a moment”. 4. The panther contrasts the hunger artistʼs ability to attract an audience through his suffering. The large and beautiful animal is more immediately appreciable in its appearance and its manner. It leaps around the once dreary cage, exuding the vitality absent from the hunger artist. The panther does not want because it is given all it could ever need, “furnished almost to the bursting point”.

Kafka shows his frustration with the public at large by showing how the audience reacts to the panther in comparison the hunger artist. The pantherʼs exuberance is obvious, shocking to the onlookers in such a way that they find it difficult to look away. The hunger artistʼs spectacle is less loud but also more meaningful, and the onlookers “did not understand why they should be held up on their way toward the excitements of the [collection of wild animals].” The hunger artist is less entertaining, and thus less easy to appreciate.

Does an audience “owe” the artist something for his effort? Is there any potential value to be gained from the hunger artist? More than the panther?


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