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Generally, Kafka’s work is characterized by an unreal and fantastic premise, such as a young man turning into an insect (The Metamorphosis), or a man being arrested and put on trial for no reason (The Trial). Everywhere in his work one finds a sense of the absurd, aimless, bizarre, and grotesque—all present in “A Hunger Artist,” which was one of the works on which he wanted to base his reputation (the others being “The Judgment,” “The Stoker,” “The Metamorphosis,” “In the Penal Colony,” and “A Country Doctor”). “A Hunger Artist” was one of a collection of four stories which Kafka proofread on his deathbed and which were published in 1924. Each one is built upon an unreal premise. In one story, a trapeze artist is happy nowhere but on his trapeze (“First Sorrow”). In a second, a man feels threatened by a woman who compulsively tries to change his ways (“A Little Woman”). In the third, a singer is so excellent that her coming death will bring an end to the very existence of music (“Josephine the Singer, or The Mousefolk”).
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