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The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy

The Death of Ivan Ilyich (original 1886; edition 2004)

by Leo Tolstoy (Author), Ronald Blythe (Introduction), Lynn Solotaroff (Translator)

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3,021731,885 (3.96)29
Title:The Death of Ivan Ilyich
Authors:Leo Tolstoy (Author)
Other authors:Ronald Blythe (Introduction), Lynn Solotaroff (Translator)
Info:Bantam Classics (2004), 128 pages
Collections:Your library

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


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» See also 29 mentions

English (59)  Dutch (4)  Spanish (3)  All (1)  Portuguese (1)  Italian (1)  Norwegian (1)  All (1)  Danish (1)  French (1)  All (73)
Showing 1-5 of 59 (next | show all)
  LeonardGMokos | Nov 22, 2016 |
A succinct, masterfully written novella true to its title. Tolstoy brings so much humanity into the story and characters, revealing all the things people notice and think but never speak about. Reminds me of Our Town a bit. Both are slightly removed from our time, but remain completely relevant. Ivan Ilych begs the reader to look at themselves and their world, what they care about and the consequences of their choices. The selfish perspectives we all seem to be stuck with are exposed, and their fruit is as ugly as you'd expect.

I really enjoyed it, so much that I'm eager to start a longer work of his. Gotta ease my way into War and Peace with Revelations or something. ( )
1 vote chronoceros | Jul 15, 2016 |
It is the epitome of a true classic. It is timeless. It is as immediately relevant now as it was when it was published 130 years ago.
Here is the unexamined Life, with its strivings, hypocrisies, bargains, illusions upon illusions, and its screens stopping thoughts of Death.
Then Life is introduced to Death. The screens are relentlessly stripped away, revealing…nothing? “There is no explanation! Agony, death… .What for?”
This is why I read. ( )
1 vote TheBookJunky | Apr 22, 2016 |
It is no spoiler to say that Ivan Illyich dies in this short novel. The brilliance of the book is in his thoughts as he realises that he is dying, although no one will tell him. This is a powerful and moving novel that makes you face your own death and wonder if this is what it will be like. ( )
  Tifi | Apr 2, 2016 |
“Ivan Ilych's life had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible.”

The book opens at the end of the story when a group of judges are informed that Ivan Ilyich has died. These men rather than mourn his passing instead begin to think of the promotions and transfers that the death will mean. That evening, one of the number travels to Ivan's house to attend his funeral. But whilst there becomes bothered by an expression of disapproval and warning on Ivan's face.

The story then shifts more than thirty years into the past and picks up with a description of Ivan's life. As a teenager he attends a Law School where he takes on the habits and mannerisms of his contemporaries who are generally of those with high social standing. Ivan becomes a magistrate and marries Praskovya. Everything seems to be going smoothly until Praskovya becomes pregnant. Suddenly Praskovya's behaviour changes and they begin to argue a lot but rather than face it Ivan buries himself in his work and distances himself from his family.

Time passes and Ivan moves up in the ranks and is eventually awarded a higher paying position in St Petersburg where he moves his family to. Whilst decorating the home he bangs his side against the window frame. The injury does not seem serious, but sometime late Ivan begins to experience some discomfort in his left side and an unusual taste in his mouth. The discomfort gradually increases and Ivan decides to see several doctors . However, the doctors all disagree on the nature of the illness and Ivan's physical condition degenerates rapidly.

One night while lying alone in the dark, he is visited by his first thoughts of mortality, and they terrify him. He realizes that his illness is not a question of health or disease, but of life or death. Ivan knows that he is dying, but he is unable to grasp the full implications of his mortality. As his health fails Ivan starts examine his life and begins to question whether or nor it was a good one.

This only a short novella and in many respects quite black in its outlook but is a very harsh look at how people choose to live their lives and whether or not our ambitions and ideals were real or merely artificial. Whether our official and personal lives can and should truly be kept separate. ( )
1 vote PilgrimJess | Mar 31, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 59 (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 (139 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tolstoy, LeoAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Aplin, HughTranslatorsecondary authorsome 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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(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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