the ends of hunger

He who hath learned to die, hath unlearned to serve. . . . To know
how to die, doth free us from all subjection and constraint.
—Montaigne, ‘‘That To Philosophise is to Learn How to Die’’
The stomach is a place almost as private as the grave.
—Maud Ellmann, The Hunger Artists
But what is your life? Can you see it? It vanishes at its own appear-
ance. Moment by moment. Until it vanishes to appear no more.
—Cormac McCarthy, Cities of the Plain
In the recovery house, the rituals of daily life are decidedly rote. Recently
released from prison, the residents seem despairingly to cling to these all-
too-fleeting enactments of presence: grooming themselves before broken
mirrors, preparing their meals, circling the space of a small living room to
share tea and partial remembrances. Melek Tokur, who starved for 205
days while incarcerated, calls this place ‘‘a symbol of our ties with life.
Because who can have such an indirect connection with life when [par-
ticipating in] an action which may result in death?’’ Tokur remembers her
friends and comrades, also striking in Usak Prison, clarifying the pro-
found significance of their morbid, indelibly mortal resistance with the
simple gesture of ‘‘planting’’: ‘‘[They] plant the seeds of the last apple
they ate before the strike to a soil they gather from rubbish or leftover tea.
[While] their own cells are dying, they are watching the apple grow.’’∞
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