A hunger artist 1

But how meaningful is this art, or any art based on private suffering? And he looked up into the eyes of the ladies who seemed so friendly but were in reality so cruel, and shook his over-heavy head on his weak neck.

a hunger artist analysis

And in that moment the hunger artist always resisted. To fight against this lack of understanding, against a whole world of non-understanding, was impossible.

A few years later when the witnesses of such scenes called them to mind, they often failed to understand themselves at all. His manager takes him from town to town across Europe, locks him in a straw filled cage for forty days, and advertises his feat of hunger, drawing large crowds.

Why should he be cheated of the fame he would get for fasting longer, for being not only the record hunger artist of all time, which presumably he was already, but for beating his own record by a performance beyond human imagination, since he felt that there were no limits to his capacity for fasting?

A hunger artist pdf

And he looked up into the eyes of the ladies who seemed so friendly but were in reality so cruel, and shook his over-heavy head on his weak neck. Into the cage they put a young panther. So on the fortieth day the flower-bedecked cage was opened, enthusiastic spectators filled the hall, a military band played, two doctors entered the cage to measure the results of the fast, which were announced through a megaphone, and finally two young ladies appeared, blissful at having been selected for the honor, to help the hunger artist down the few steps leading to a small table on which was spread a carefully chosen invalid repast. Even the most insensitive felt it refreshing to see this wild creature leaping around the cage that had so long been dreary. Usually we think of insatiability as a condition of excess; the spendthrift, the satyr, and the glutton are all insatiable. Besides casual onlookers there were also relays of permanent watchers selected by the public, ususally butchers, strangely enough, and it was their task to watch the hunger artist day and night, three of them at a time, in case he should have some secret recourse to nourishment. But it was only a formality introduced to reassure the audiences, because those involved knew full well that during a fast the artist would never, under no circumstances, not even under duress, have eaten even the tiniest snack; the honour of his art forbade it. No one could possibly watch the hunger artist continuosly, day and night, and so no one could produce first-hand evidence that the fast had really been rigorous and continuous; only the artist himself could know that, he was therefore bound to be the sole completely satisfied spectator of his own fast. He is most happy when, in the morning, they are fed a hearty breakfast at his expense. What more could he wish for? In fact, he never looks at anything else, either; he has total control over his own starvation. Only he can possibly understand his own craft, and despite his claims to the contrary, this is just how he wants it. Experience had proved that for about forty days the interest of the public could be stimulated by a steadily increasing pressure of advertisment, but after that the town began to lose interest, sympathetic support began notably to fall off, there were of course local variations as between one town and another, but as a general rule forty days marked the limit. It was the easiest thing in the world.

This was nothing but a formality, instituted to reassure the masses, for the initiates knew well enough that during his fast the artist would never in any circumstances, not even under forcible compulsion, swallow the smallest morsel of food; the honor of his profession forbade it.

The impresario feeds the hunger artist some food and toasts the public with words supposedly from the hunger artist.

A hunger artist tone

We live in a different world now. If a spectator, observing his apparent melancholy, tried to console him, he would erupt in fury, shaking the bars of his cage. While there is no specific reference, the hunger artist may share one other salient characteristic with Christ originally : he appears to be Jewish. In this way he suggested that the hunger artist's sadness and poor physique was caused by fasting, when, in the hunger artist's view, he was depressed because of the premature cessation of his fasts. Once again the impresario rushed him through half of Europe, to see whether here and there they might still find a flicker of the old interest; all in vain; as if in some secret pact, audiences everywhere had developed a downright aversion to performance fasting. Why stop fasting at this particular moment, after forty days of it? He could have held out much longer, indefinitely; why stop when he was at the peak, not even yet at the peak, of his fast? And if occasionally he met some good-natured person who sympathized and tried to explain that his sadness was probably a consequence of hunger, it sometimes happened, especially if he was deep into a fasting period, that the hunger artist would react with a fit of rage, frightening the audience by rattling at his cage like an animal. His public pretended to admire him so much, why should it have so little patience with him; if he could endure fasting longer, why shouldn't the public endure it?

If I had found it, believe me, I should have made no fuss and stuffed myself like you or anyone else. They poked into the straw with sticks and found him in it. His medium is his cage and the public performance. Page 1 of 8. So on the fortieth day the door to the flower-bedecked cage was opened, a rapturous audience packed the amphitheatre, a brass band played, two doctors went into the cage to perform the necessary tests on the hunger artist, the results were relayed to the spectators through a megaphone, and last of all came two young ladies, who were very happy to have won the raffle and now wanted to lead the hunger artist out of the cage and down a couple of steps to a little table where a carefully prepared recovery meal had been laid out.

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A Hunger Artist