A Hunger Artist Historical Context

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It may come as a surprise that "A Hunger Artist" is partially based on the real historical phenomenon of "professional fasting." While most critics have failed to note this, Breon Mitchell, in his article, "Kafka and the Hunger Artists," has brought to light the history of a world famous "hunger artist" whose coverage in local newspapers may have inspired Kafka's story. Mitchell points out that "almost every detail" of Kafka's story corresponds to "the actual profession of fasting for pay." He states that, "The correspondence with reality is, in fact, so close that Kafka could not possibly have written the tale without some direct or indirect knowledge of the best-known hunger artists of his time."

The phenomenon of "professional fasting" lasted from 1880-1922, roughly the years of Kafka's lifespan. The first professional fast was accomplished by Dr. Henry Tanner, an American who was said to...

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This section contains 988 words
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Buy the A Hunger Artist Study Guide
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Short Stories for Students
A Hunger Artist from Short Stories for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.