Kafka's Hunger Artist?

Succi, Giovanni, hunger artist (fl. 1890s). Letter signed. Accompanied by an original photograph.

Vienna, "Hotel Royal", 11 April 1896.

8vo. 1 p. In German. Photograph: 132 x 200 mm on card; all edges gilt.


To the editor of Vienna's "Deutsches Volksblatt": "Bezug nehmend auf mein gestriges Schreiben bedaure ich es daß ich mich irrthümlicherweise auf §19 berufen habe u. berichtige ich daher mein gestriges Schreiben dahin, daß ich es dem Willen des geehrten Herrn Redakteurs anheimstelle, meine Berichtigung aufzunehmen. Indem ich noch ersuche dies meiner Unerfahrenheit in den hiesigen Gesetzen u. Gebräuchen zuzuschreiben zeichne ich hochachtungsvoll [...]" ("With reference to my letter of yesterday, I regret having erroneously invoked §19 and therefore amend my said communication by submitting to the editor's judgment regarding his acceptance of this correction. I further beg that the mistake be ascribed to my inexperience with the local laws and customs [...]", transl.).

Paragraph 19 in the Austrian General Civil Code states that whoever addresses an infringement of his rights on his own authority, rather than lodging a formal complaint with the appropriate agency, or whoever exceeds his right of self-defence, shall be responsible for his actions.

The "hunger artist" Succi, who has been considered a possible inspiration for Franz Kafka's eponymous short story, stayed in Vienna from 29 March until 27 April 1896, performing a 30-day self-starvation act under medical supervision in his rooms at the Hotel Royal in Singerstrasse. Taking in nothing but Krondorf mineral water (though rumour has it that he was observed indulging in a beefsteak on the 26th day of his performance), he received some 500 paying guests during the Easter holidays alone, mostly members of Vienna's upper classes and even the nobility (including Archduke Ludwig Salvator). The photograph that accompanies the letter may well show such a soirée, apparently assembled at a restaurant or hotel (the Hotel Royal?) and including the artist Koloman Moser, seen third from right.

In an old collector's envelope.