My reading of the short story A Hunger Artist by Franz Kafka, translated by Ian Johnston, has just been catalogued. Hunger artists are, of course, people who starve publically — in a performance sense, not a documentary-on-countries-with-famine sense. Linking getting thinner with getting the public’s attention has media-anorexia overtones, though masochism and traditional views of Starving Artists come into play too. Before recording, I read around the web a bit, and found this particularly good study guide. If you have a spare hour, the interest and some brain energy available, I’d recommend it. I ended up being particularly struck by the sadism of the voyeurs/audience who encourage the starving artist, but there are a lot of other ways to interpret the story, depending on your own world view.
One other thing, this is where people adding to the public domain are doing such an amazing service. The translator here has produced various other Kafka stories too (mostly also in the LibriVox catalogue) and they’re recent translations which makes them very readable and accessible. Without him, I’d know nothing about this story, and I certainly wouldn’t have been able to read it into the public domain myself. Many thanks, Ian.
Listen below … or visit the link above to download a higher-quality recording.