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The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy
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The Death of Ivan Ilych (1886)

by Leo Tolstoy (Author)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,772632,114 (3.95)15
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Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
This is a collection of four short novels. I rounded up to four stars on my overall rating because the afterword did a really good job of explaining each of the stories and how Tolstoy got the idea for each one.

Family Happiness – 3 stars
Seventeen year old Masha lives in the Russian countryside with her sister and governess after her parents’ deaths. Their neighbor and old family friend, Sergey, handles the affairs of their estate. When Masha confesses her love for Sergey, he admits that he is also in love with her, although he is reluctant to marry her because of the large gap in their ages. After their marriage, Masha becomes bored with life in her husband’s house, and the couple go to St. Petersburg for the season. Masha falls in love with life in society in spite of Sergey’s dislike of it. Their differences push the couple father and farther apart until they return to the country and have to find a way to resolve their problems. The story itself was interesting, but since Masha was the narrator, her immature outlook on everything made this an unpleasant read. I had trouble paying attention to her selfish, girlish ramblings.

The Death of Ivan Ilych – 4 stars
Ivan Ilych is a minor government official who is married to a woman he hates. After falling from a ladder, he develops a lingering and painful illness that eventually kills him. During the weeks he is forced to spend in bed, he reflects on the nature of moral living and questions whether he has, in fact, lived the moral life he thought he had. In the meantime, he comes to resent his family more and more as they persist in ignoring the fact that he is dying and pretend that he will recover. I liked this novella and the questions it raises about the nature of life and death. I found Ivan Ilych to be an interesting, although imperfect, character.

The Kreutzer Sonata – 3 stars
While on an overnight train ride through the country, Pozdnyshev tells the story of how he came to murder his wife and explains why he thinks complete abstinence from sex is the best solution for many of the problems of modern society. I struggled with this novella because the narrator’s views on women are not pleasant, although he does occasionally make valid points. The lack of any real action made it even harder to get through because the whole story was basically one long monologue.

Master and Man – 4 stars
When landowner Vasili Andreevich sets out from his home to see about buying some land several miles away, he takes one of his peasants, Nikita, with him. As they travel, the snowstorm gets worse, and they lose the road several times. Eventually, it grows too dark to see anything and their horse becomes too tired to move anymore, so they are forced to stop for the night without shelter. The story examines how the two men react when faced with the possibility of freezing to death. This was a fairly quick read although it was an uncomfortable one because it was pretty obvious that there was not going to be a happy ending. I did like the message of the story. ( )
  AmandaL. | Jan 16, 2016 |
This was one of my favorite stories of all time in 1999. I read it over and over again, thinking it contained and could reveal all the wisdom in the world. ( )
  engpunk77 | Aug 10, 2015 |
I spotted this on a friend's shelf, borrowed it, and read it in an afternoon. I found it to be an interesting - and arrestingly short - contemplation of the end of life and life's worth/value. The introduction was extremely helpful in understanding the context of Tolstoy's complete antithesis regard for life in comparison with his character. I'm not exactly sure why this stands out for historians as a unique book of its kind, as the introduction reveals and reminds that other such literature exists, perhaps better. A good first experience with the author nonetheless. ( )
  MartinBodek | Jun 11, 2015 |
Two spoilers: Ivan dies, and this book is great. ( )
  trilliams | May 30, 2015 |
a good story of a dying man. good introduction ( )
  mahallett | May 25, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
The light ridicule with which it commences and the black horror in which it terminates... are alike suggestive of the Thackeray of Russia.
added by Shortride | editThe New York Times (pay site)
 

» Add other authors (65 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tolstoy, LeoAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Aplin, HughTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bremer, GeertAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Edmonds, RosemaryTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eekman, T.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prebble, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In the great building of the Law Courts, during an interval in the hearing of the Melvinsky affair, the members of the Court and the public prosecutor gathered together in Ivan Yegorovich Shebek's private room, and the conversation turned on the celebrated Krasovsky case.
(the Rosemary Edwards translation)
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Please note that this work is only for "The Death of Ivan Ilych" ONLY.

NOT for any work with any other stories or with commentaries.

Please note that "The Cossacks" and 'Hadji Murat" are NOT the same work and please do NOT recombine them. Thank you.

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This is a classic book discussing the difference between life and death and a substantial way of living versus a frivolous way of living. In the frivolous way of living, life is materialistic and self-centered. In the substantial way of living, life includes real emotion such as remorse and sympathy.
The climax of the story is when Ivan Ilyich asks God or empty space why he has been suffering. He actually stops and listens for an answer and gets one. It is simply, "becuase". And that is enough of an answer for Ivan Ilyich. Tolstoy is answering the question that most people ask about suffering with the simple answer of "because". He does not make excuses, does not try to reason it out. He simply states that there is suffering because. I think this is very profound.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553210351, Mass Market Paperback)

Hailed as one of the world's supreme masterpieces on the subject of death and dying, The Death of Ivan Ilyich is the story of a worldly careerist, a high court judge who has never given the inevitability of his death so much as a passing thought. But one day death announces itself to him, and to his shocked surprise he is brought face to face with his own mortality. How, Tolstoy asks, does an unreflective man confront his one and only moment of truth?

This short novel was the artistic culmination of a profound spiritual crisis in Tolstoy's life, a nine-year period following the publication of Anna Karenina during which he wrote not a word of fiction. A thoroughly absorbing and, at times, terrifying glimpse into the abyss of death, it is also a strong testament to the possibility of finding spiritual salvation.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:06 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Ivan Ilyich is wasting away. He lies alone, dosed up on opium and deceived by doctors, haunted by memories and regrets. His friends come to see him, their faces masks of concern. His faithful servant tends to his every need. But as he forces down false remedies and listens to empty promises, Ivan grows aware of one terrible truth. His wife and his children are not awaiting his recovery. They are waiting for him to die.… (more)

» see all 8 descriptions

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10 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141023600, 0140449612

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