Ein Hungerkünstler; A Hunger Artist

Ein Hungerkünstler; A Hunger Artist (written and published 1922)

In this shocking, appalling short story, a man turns self-destruction into an art form by starving himself to death for the benefit of the public. This story about a fasting artist asks some challenging questions about art and anorexia.

Why? Is he fasting out of poverty, or for religious reasons, or moral, or aesthetic reasons? Is he an anorexic? Or is this a protest, a form of hunger strike? If so, what is he protesting against?

On one level this story pays tribute to the great Expressionist novel Hunger (1890) by the Norwegian novelist Knut Hamsun (1859-1952). On another level the story is a psychological study; on yet another level it is a meditation on the relation between artist and public.

Further Reading

Knut Hamsun, Hunger, trans. by Sverre Lyngstad, intro. by Jo Nesbø, afterword by Paul Auster (Edinburgh: Canongate, 2011)

Ritchie Robertson, Kafka: a very short introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), pp. 57-59

Emily Troscianko, ‘First-person and second-generation perspectives on starvation in Kafka’s “Ein Hungerkünstler”’, Style 48:3 (Fall 2014), 311ff.

Walter Vandereycken and Ron van Deth, From Fasting Saints to Anorexic Girls: The History of Self-Starvation (London: Athlone Press, 1994)

Web Links in German


Free audio download of Ein Hungerkünstler


Ein Hungerkünstler in German; click on a word for the English translation