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The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy

The Death of Ivan Ilych (original 1886; edition 2006)

by Leo Tolstoy

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2,651622,256 (3.95)15
Title:The Death of Ivan Ilych
Authors:Leo Tolstoy
Info:Waking Lion Press (2006), Paperback, 86 pages
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The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy (Author) (1886)


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» See also 15 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
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 |
It was moving to read this book after my friend's recent breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. I think all of us (her friends and family) were struggling with this idea that she might, in fact, be mortal. I'm looking forward to my book club's discussion soon. ( )
  AudreyJoy | Jan 21, 2015 |
Until the nature of his injury makes itself known Ivan Ilych ambles through life, succeeding in both his career and personal life (at least he keeps up the facade of success in those realms). Yet Ivan Ilych never exhibits any passion, nor does he examine the path he has taken and where it might lead.

When a foolish accident brings home his own mortality, however, Ivan Ilych is forced to consider all the things he had taken for granted before. His unhappy marriage, his career that he sometimes enjoyed but largely performed for the sake of a salary and social advancement, and his life in general where he never stood for or against anything, all provide grist for Ivan's tormented mind. The nature of life and the inevitability of death spur in Ivan thoughts about dying for the first time. Tolstoy gives us a dying man who is bitter that everyone else is continuing their lives as if "the world was going on as usual." Of course, to everyone except the dying man, it is. He gives us a man who always thought of himself as death's exception. Everyone has probably done something similar, at least at times, because that thought is so much easier to grasp compared to the idea that we are mortal and will be dead someday, our consciousness ending like a candle being snuffed. He gives us a man railing against the cruelty of God while simultaneously railing against God's absence. Finally Tolstoy lets Ivan Ilych begin to examine his own life, and as he does so he realizes that his moments of purest happiness were during childhood, and since then his life has been one big death-spiral, before giving Ivan a moment of forgiveness and what I interpret as divine absolution.

Tolstoy in this book tells what I imagine is a universal tale of a person trying to reconcile themselves with his or her own mortality. We probably have all had the thoughts that go through Ivan's head in our own head at some point in our lives- if anything Ivan Ilych thinks about hasn't occurred to you in at least a general sense before then you probably don't spend much time thinking- but Tolstoy presents these thoughts well. That being said, his writing did not spur any realization about life or death that I didn't have before I began the book. Maybe I contemplate my own mortality more than most people do? I think that, despite the lack of new insight, the book could have been great if the scenes of Iva Ilych's terror and suffering were portrayed with great prose that made the scenes depicted viscerally striking. I didn't find the prose to be particularly impressive, unfortunately, though that may be the fault of the Maude translation. I also thought the ending was a bit of a cop-out, at least if you interpret the ending as his soul receiving forgiveness, as it undercuts the fear of death and the ensuing nothingness that was such an integral part of the story up until that point. I hope Tolstoy really believed in such forgiveness, and didn't include it so as to give a more uplifting ending, because the story would have been better off without it.

If you've never really thought about death, it's worth reading a book that contemplates such a thing. There are plenty to choose from: Death Comes for the Archbishop, Gilead, The Tartar Steppe, or Hamlet just to name a few (death is hardly a rare theme). Still, The Death of Ivan Ilych stands out as perhaps the work most focused on death. Choose it if that sounds appealing to you. ( )
  BayardUS | Dec 10, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
The work has a twofold value - first as a commentary of a Russian upon the most noteworthy event of Russia's contemporary, and, secondly, as a soldier's account from personal observation of the most stirring scenes of a mighty war.
added by Shortride | editThe New York Times (pay site)
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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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)

(summary from another edition)

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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

Urban Romantics

An edition of this book was published by Urban Romantics.

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