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The Death of Ivan Ilyich (1886)

by Leo Tolstoy

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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5,3391511,939 (3.97)1 / 75
Classic Literature. Fiction. HTML:

Hailed as one of the world's masterpieces of psychological realism, 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?

The first part of the story portrays Ivan Ilyich's colleagues and family after he has died as they discuss the effect of his death on their careers and fortunes. In the second part, Tolstoy reveals the life of the man whose death seems so trivial. The perfect bureaucrat, Ilyich treasured his orderly domestic and office routine. Diagnosed with an incurable illness, he at first denies the truth but is influenced by the simple acceptance of his servant boy, and he comes to embrace the boy's belief that death is natural and not shameful. He comforts himself with happy memories of childhood and gradually realizes that he has ignored all his inner yearnings as he tried to do what was expected of him.

Will Ilyich be able to come to terms with himself before his life ebbs away?

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

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» See also 75 mentions

English (127)  Dutch (6)  Spanish (4)  French (3)  Portuguese (Portugal) (3)  Danish (2)  Greek (1)  Catalan (1)  Norwegian (1)  Italian (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Portuguese (1)  All languages (151)
Showing 1-5 of 127 (next | show all)
Simplesmente incrível. ( )
  murillojdias | Jan 9, 2024 |
Bleak Classic Brilliance

I have to admit it took me a while to warm up to this, before it utterly chilled me. Beautiful, heartbreaking writing charting the life, death, and regrets of one man performed wonderfully by Simon Prebble.

As someone with chronic conditions and a lot of pain, this definitely hits different.

Just awfully well observed humanity in its crumbling. ( )
  RatGrrrl | Dec 20, 2023 |
There were a couple wryly funny moments, and the "moral of the story" is good and all, but I was completely bored while reading this. ( )
  RachelRachelRachel | Nov 21, 2023 |
Over this past year, I’ve had a goal of reading more classics, and one of the ones that I put on my TBR list this past month was The Death of Ivan Illych. I was excited to read another Leo Tolstoy book—it’s probably been a good 15 years since I read anything he wrote, and what I remember of his stories is that they were pretty good.

Since this is a reasonably short story, divided into chapters, I didn’t find it a difficult read. It was a bit slower than some books I’ve read, but that’s to be expected. I really enjoyed a few observations through the story—for example, one man sat down “on a low ottoman with deranged springs which yielded spasmodically under his weight.” (That description tickled my funny bone!) I also got a good chuckle out of a relatively dry observation in chapter two about how governments reward people for faithful service by giving them fictitious jobs (“and by no means fictitious thousands”).

The story itself wasn’t all that striking, I found. It’s the story of a man dying from some sort of illness—likely cancer—and how he came to realize that he had, in effect, wasted his entire life. I did appreciate the inference that if we pour into others and have a relationship with God, we will have a much happier end—even if we do end up with broken health at the end of our lives.

This story wasn’t nearly as memorable as some of the other Tolstoy stories I remember hearing or reading over the years, but I’m glad to be back in a space where I’m excited about reading his stories, and I’m looking forward to the next story I read from his pen! ( )
  EstherFilbrun | Aug 21, 2023 |
I cannot appraise a work of Tolstoy; but I can say that it took me to a world I had not known, and I was fascinated by it. #AmazingBook ( )
  RickGeissal | Aug 16, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 127 (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 (76 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tolstoy, Leoprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Blythe, RonaldIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bremer, GeertAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dreiblatt, IanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Edmonds, RosemaryTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eekman, T.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maude, LouiseTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prebble, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Solotaroff, LynnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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First words
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)
In the large building housing the Law Courts, during a recess in the Melvinsky proceedings, members of the court and the public prosecutor met in the office of Ivan Egorovich Shebek, where the conversation turned on the celebrated Krasov case.
(the Lynn Solotaroff translation)
Quotations
Information from the Catalan Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Citacions:
"Jo no seré : què hi haurà aleshores?.." sobre la mort i el que passara desprès (cap v)
Cap vii. Sobre la mentida:"Aquesta mentida al seu voltant i al seu mateix interior fou el que més va anar enverinant..." (s ha de mentir al moribund sobre la seva mort?).Al papà no li vam dir la veritat.
Quin es el.patiment moral que té? Que s adona que no ha viscut d una manera com calia? (Ca xi)
Al final es reconv ilu a amb la vida i la mort? (Cap (cap xii)
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This edition also contains "Maître et Serviteur" and "Trois Morts"
Please note that this work is only for "The Death of Ivan Ilyich" only, not for any work with any other stories.
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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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Classic Literature. Fiction. HTML:

Hailed as one of the world's masterpieces of psychological realism, 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?

The first part of the story portrays Ivan Ilyich's colleagues and family after he has died as they discuss the effect of his death on their careers and fortunes. In the second part, Tolstoy reveals the life of the man whose death seems so trivial. The perfect bureaucrat, Ilyich treasured his orderly domestic and office routine. Diagnosed with an incurable illness, he at first denies the truth but is influenced by the simple acceptance of his servant boy, and he comes to embrace the boy's belief that death is natural and not shameful. He comforts himself with happy memories of childhood and gradually realizes that he has ignored all his inner yearnings as he tried to do what was expected of him.

Will Ilyich be able to come to terms with himself before his life ebbs away?

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

.

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Book description
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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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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Urban Romantics

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