A Hunger Artist

by: Franz Kafka

The Impresario

Characters The Impresario

The impresario is part of a class of people who exploit art and artists for their own personal gain. Though the impresario is the hunger artist’s “partner in an unparalleled career,” a description that would suggest camaraderie between the two men, he behaves for the most part as a parasite would, fattening himself on the proceeds presumably given to the hunger artist for his performances. The impresario finds sustenance by capitalizing on another man’s starvation. In essence, the impresario commodifies the hunger artist’s suffering, when all the hunger artist aspires to do is be recognized for his efforts and achievements. The impresario’s career trajectory and business practices, when taken together, further indicate his parasitic nature. Just as the parasite is most effective when it does not drain its host completely, the impresario is most successful for shepherding the hunger artist back from the brink of death at the end of each performance. Finally, the impresario abandons his host when nourishment is no longer available.

While the impresario’s motivations for associating with the hunger artist are primarily self-centered, the impresario plays an important role in enabling the hunger artist to come close to reaching his goal. The impresario may behave as the hunger artist’s parasitic publicist, but he also functions as the hunger artist’s only connection to the people on whom he depends to recognize his artistic achievement. By taking responsibility for the hunger artist’s physical needs, even to the extent of force-feeding him, the impresario frees the hunger artist to focus solely on his aspiration to fast. Of the two, it is the impresario who most clearly perceives the disconnect between the hunger artist’s apparent death wish and need to be recognized by the masses. By remaining with the hunger artist until he no longer possibly can, the impresario is in some ways the hunger artist’s partner and devoted caretaker.