A Hunger Artist by Franz Kafka was the story I read immediately after The Metamorphosis, which threw me for such a loop that I knew I’d read everything Kafka had written.
And now that I’ve read all of his works, Artist is the story that continues to haunt me for than any other. The story is simple in concept–fasting is an art form being pursued by the hunger artist, who risks his life for the sake of his work–but this being a Kafka story, the possible interpretations are anything but.
If I were writing an English paper about it, it would try to synthesize Kafka’s ideas about the role of the artist in society. Of course, there are other stories written by the man that could be used to refute just about any story I could come up with.
If you’re interested in taking the trip, here’s the Project Gutenberg link to the text of the story.
And if you run out of his fiction and want more Kafka, his collected letters are illuminating as well. I love his work as much as I love anyone’s–even though it’s not really enjoyable–but I wish his writing could have lessened the torments he experienced in life.