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Essays On Hunger

This is one of the sinister ways anorexia invades a person – "by deception, by a long series of constraints that tighten so slowly that they're barely noticeable". As it becomes embodied, the disease exhibits its contradictions: the more the body shrinks, the more it offends outsiders; as anorexics wilfully disappear from the world, they become more conspicuous.

Like an abusive lover, anorexia cut Wright off from her social world, issued cruel and constant criticism, and assaulted her body. Yet the disease was seductive, too, in "the particular intensity that malnutrition brings on, I know that I miss it still. The alertness of sensation, where every minute cell in the body is alive to the smallest details of the outside world."

The starving body becomes hypersensitised, and so "the world glistens … so many days felt strangely brittle, saturated, super-real". In Sri Lanka, where her starvation regime became a series of complicated rituals, Wright offered food to poor strangers in a city where "one hungry child with a cricket bat was just a colour piece in the weekend newspaper".

In In Berlin, she describes ways anorexia sharpens the mind even as it withers the body. In In Miniature, she fears that her writing, which "has kept me sane" might be "based on nothing more than cognitive pathology".

One of anorexia's crueller deceptions is that as sufferers recover, they "feel worse, far worse than when we don't have our hunger to protect us". As the regimes of starvation occupied her body, her time and her mental energy, hunger also exiled Wright from her most fearsome emotions. So surrendering "that control – the structure and regulation of my illness – means free falling. I still don't know what it means to exist within the everyday chaos of the world, without disintegrating entirely."

So supple and broad are these essays – ranging through biology, history, travel, politics and literature – that they're not neatly classifiable as disease-memoirs (a genre Wright knows as "sick-lit" – typified by Portia de Rossi's bulimia-memoir, Unbearable Lightness).

Instead, each essay works as a kind of poetic auto-ethnography, moving between inexplicable realities of the self and those of the world-at-large; between life's surfaces and interiors.

Throughout is Wright's own reflexive grappling – in one essay she describes a "double-consciousness" that characterises her illness, inhibits her recovery, and charges her writing.

And this consciousness brings lucidity to her own literary interpretations. Characters in the writings of Christina Stead, Tim Winton and others, examined through Wright's lens, are newly discovered in their diseased dimensions.

Wright insists this collection doesn't amount to a recovery narrative: healing from anorexia is chaotic, inconsistent and full of trickery – not neatly linear. Still, even the most sorrowful of these essays resonates with gentle optimism and humour.

This is what makes them pleasurable – not hedonically, but in the skilful ways they connect with the reader's own vulnerabilities. Those who've witnessed anorexia's pitiless grip on the lives of sufferers (and the people who love them) will find clarity in Wright's insider-perspective. But even those who haven't will find deeply affecting insights into humanity's variations.

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Marcin MICZEK, student
Silesian University of Technology, Gliwice
Faculty of Mathematics and Physics
Applied Physics
specialization: Computers in Physical Measurements

Even at the end of the twentieth century people are still dying of hunger. What can be done to solve this problem?

Perhaps everybody agrees with the opinion that hunger is one of the greatest and most important problems of the contemporary world. A lot of people think that it must be solved. Otherwise, we cannot say that our world is just and gives all the people the fundamental right to live in dignity. In this essay, I would like to treat this problem wider because when people are dying of hunger it is too late to help them. These people should have been helped earlier when they were poor and 'only a little' hungry.

I think that when we try to solve a problem we should know what it is caused by. The main reason for famine is the wrong distribution of goods in the world. It is obvious that some countries do not have enough fields which enable them to feed all their citizens. However the global production of food might meet the necessity of all people of the world. From my viewpoint, other reasons like the debts of the Third World, inefficient agriculture, politics and social structures, and the density of the population result just from the main reason and are secondary. For example, almost each country has debts but famine touches only some of them. We should not think that hungry children are only in the Third World. Some of the Polish pupils (even in my city, Chorzów) do not eat breakfast and a school dinner is the only meal they have in a day. Fortunately, they are not dying of hunger. However there are some other problems my country should try to cope with Homelessness as well as the increasing number of people dying of cold in winter seem to become some of the most serious cases of concern.

The problem of famine (like each of serious world problems - e. g. the armaments race, unemployment or the environmental problem of pollution) can be dealt with on three levels: personally, nationally, and internationally. These three levels are associated with one another so strictly that they must be considered together.

What ought we to do personally if we find out that there is famine in any land or region? Individually we can do little but if some human beings organize a collection of money, food, medicines etc. we all can help people in need. Many organizations (for example Polski Czerwony Krzyż - Polish Red Cross, Polska Akcja Humanitarna - Polish Humanitarian Action, Caritas) aid people from Poland and other countries. Everybody (if they want) can support their actions as much as possible.

But this all leads just to a momentary relief and not to a definitive solution of this problem. Somebody said: 'If you give somebody a fish, he won't be hungry one day but if you give him a net, he won't be hungry for years'. According to this statement we should not only feed hungry people but teach them how to avoid famine in their land as well. I think this direction of the national and international aid is still not enough. Obviously, it is easier to give a beggar a coin than to enable him to earn money. Unfortunately, this problem can be solved almost only in the second way. Too big help often leads the helped humans to laziness, a further claims and different incorrectnesses. For example, parents of some hungry Polish pupils are given an allowance for their children every month but they spend it on alcohol.

One of the national and international methods of preventing famine (used e. g. in China) is the control of conception by contraception and abortion. United Nations try to force this method upon poor nations sometimes even threatening them saying that no more loans will be given to them in case they refuse to use this method. I think contraception, abortion, and blackmail are wrong and unethical ways. The earth is able to feed all people and no-one must tell parents how many children they should have.

According to me, science may help to improve agriculture in Africa and Asia but money, nations' and their goverments' good will, and agricultural instructors are needed. New species of plants and animals and new methods of cultivation and breeding could help to increase agricultural production.

If goverments, organizations, enterprises, political parties, and common citizens (like us) did not spend so much money on armaments, election campaigns, advertisements, bureaucracy, and luxurious goods we could spend it on education, aid for the poor and, in this manner, prevent poverty and hunger all over the world. But the limitation of consumption and changes of people's thinking are almost impossible in a typical rich country.

Summing up I can say that the problem of hunger is not easy to solve and its solution demands big efforts of people, national and international organizations, and countries. I have written that the earth is able to feed us all and there is still hope that famine will disappear.

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