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The Death of Ivan Ilyich (1886)

by Leo Tolstoy

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,9831022,161 (3.96)51
Hailed as one of the world's supreme masterpieces on the subject of death and dying, The Death of Ivan Ilyichis 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 Kareninaduring 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. From the Paperback edition.… (more)
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» See also 51 mentions

English (85)  Dutch (4)  Spanish (4)  French (2)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Portuguese (1)  Italian (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Danish (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (101)
Showing 1-5 of 85 (next | show all)
excellent, though DEPRESSING account of human nature.

Read #2: Being a Russian major means reading this book over and over again. This time through, I think maybe Ivan Ilych's suffering was really the pain of interpreting everyone else's actions in the most negative possible light--it is charity towards our fellows that relieves our sufferings. ( )
  askannakarenina | Sep 16, 2020 |
excellent, though DEPRESSING account of human nature.

Read #2: Being a Russian major means reading this book over and over again. This time through, I think maybe Ivan Ilych's suffering was really the pain of interpreting everyone else's actions in the most negative possible light--it is charity towards our fellows that relieves our sufferings. ( )
  askannakarenina | Sep 16, 2020 |
excellent, though DEPRESSING account of human nature.

Read #2: Being a Russian major means reading this book over and over again. This time through, I think maybe Ivan Ilych's suffering was really the pain of interpreting everyone else's actions in the most negative possible light--it is charity towards our fellows that relieves our sufferings. ( )
  askannakarenina | Sep 16, 2020 |
excellent, though DEPRESSING account of human nature.

Read #2: Being a Russian major means reading this book over and over again. This time through, I think maybe Ivan Ilych's suffering was really the pain of interpreting everyone else's actions in the most negative possible light--it is charity towards our fellows that relieves our sufferings. ( )
  askannakarenina | Sep 16, 2020 |
Throughout recorded time, humans have wondered about the afterlife and its relationship to this life. Tolstoy takes a spin on that and focuses on the interface between the two. What exactly happens as one approaches death? Few have experienced near-death, but no one has experienced death fully. What is dying like?

Tolstoy provides his answer in this short depiction of a Russian lawyer Ivan Ilych. He lives a normal, even boring, life and suddenly gets sick. His performance at work suffers, and his family gawks at him. He experiences pain and after much contemplation, decides that there is no meaning in death. He is offered last rites. Eventually, he dies saying to himself, “Death is finished… It is no more!”, and the book ends.

Throughout this process, we readers peer into his inner life. We see his uncertainty and curiosity about death. In twenty-first century parlance, he grieves his own death as he comes to accept his mortality. At one point, he thinks, “There is no explanation! Agony, death… What for?” He also reflects on the quality of his life and decides that he lived a good life.

Tolstoy offers readers the opportunity to examine their own experience and to accept, albeit incompletely, their own finitude. He writes in the Christian tradition even though much of this work applies to those outside this faith. He takes no position on the existence of an afterlife, either positively or negatively. Instead, he focuses on what a (good?) death consists of and how human nature reacts when approaching death.

This classical yet modern statement about how humans approach death helps readers detach from their own emotions towards death. By observing Ivan Ilych, we readers observe ourselves and the prejudices we carry towards death on the basis of our own experiences. Thus, Tolstoy offers us a liturgy of sorts. He allows us to play out the drama over and over in this short novella. In so doing, he seeks to allow us to embrace life more fully. That job is accomplished through his strongly asserted words. The rest is up to us. ( )
  scottjpearson | Sep 14, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 85 (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 (77 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tolstoy, Leoprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Blythe, RonaldIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bremer, GeertAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Edmonds, RosemaryTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eekman, T.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prebble, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Solotaroff, LynnTranslatorsecondary 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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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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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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Hailed as one of the world's supreme masterpieces on the subject of death and dying, The Death of Ivan Ilyichis 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 Kareninaduring 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. From the Paperback edition.

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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

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