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The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories…

The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories

by Leo Tolstoy

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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There are obviously a lot of books called 'The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories.' The volume I read had Ivan, The Cossacks, and Happily Ever After (aka Family Happiness.) There's not too much to say- it seems that if you've read any Tolstoy, you know the general thrust; depressing, but with at least apparently uplifting endings in which characters come to do and feel the right thing. DII and Cossacks are both great (four stars each), but if I was going to read one, it'd be the Cossacks. HEA is pretty dull (two stars), although important for Tolstoy's biography according to the introduction. So if you care about that sort of thing, you'll get something out of it.
As a side note, the translation is a little strange (minus one star). Translation-ese is rarely good prose, but it can be (e.g., the older translations of Proust). Edmonds seems to have gone for transparency here, with no concern for the language. Which is fine, except that having read Pevear & Volokhonsky's War and Peace, I know that it can be done better. So you should read the Cossacks, but maybe in a different translation.

In sum: 4 4 3 - 1 = 10. 10/3 = roughly three. ( )
  stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
This particular volume contains three of Tolstoy’s shorter works: The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Happy Ever After, and The Cossacks. A common theme that I found within them was a growing dissatisfaction by the protagonist with living according to the norms of their particular culture. At some point the central character in each story awakened to the fact that they were living a life that, while full of material goods, was empty morally and/or spiritually. The way in which this realization was addressed differed in each story, and each of the protagonists found themselves at a destination that was unique when compared to the others. And while I found this particular theme “connecting” the stories, they were each very unique stories in and of themselves.

I found The Death of Ivan Ilyich to be enthralling from start to finish. As a teaser to encourage you to read the story I’ll share the mindset of Ilyich’s wife after he dies. She laments that his mournful wailing over the final three days of his life was virtually unbearable for her to endure, without displaying even the least amount of compassion for the pain her husband was suffering through. I have not read Tolstoy much, nor for a long time, but taking in this easy-to-read collection is spurring me on to dig into his work anew. ( )
  BradKautz | Jun 18, 2013 |
Reading this short novel reminded me of some of the existentialist works that I have read and studied over the years. Tolstoy's meditation on the death of an everyman, a bureaucrat whose life was anything but uncommon. Effortlessly, Tolstoy examines life’s shallow exteriors as well as its inner workings. And in the quotidian details of a life we see pageant of folly. Only slowly does wisdom emerge not like a dull moral lesson, but heavy, as if from a downpour, with all the weight, shine and freshness of real life. We see, vividly, Ivan Ilych’s errors until one day we realize that someone is looking at us as if we were a character in The Death of Ivan Ilych. This is a small book with a large impact on the reader. It is one that has not lost its power more than a century after its first appearance. In addition to The Death of Ivan Ilych this volume also includes the stories: The Kreutzer Sonata, Hadji Murad, and Family Happiness. ( )
  jwhenderson | Jan 18, 2012 |
Wow... This is such an unpleasant and disturbing read. In the Keutzer Sonata we've come lightyears, it would seem, from the Tolstoy I thought I knew. The Death of Ivan Ilych is as brilliant as anything else, but the Keutzer Sonata is the taint of Tolstoy's entire career in my opinion. Brilliant, in purely aesthetical terms, as always with Tolstoy, but the beliefs espoused in this novella (obviously Tolstoy's own) is so far removed from todays and seem so harsh and unrelenting that it becomes almost unbearable. I don't know what to think of it all. I loved Ivan Ilych so much that I would like to give it something beyond perfection, but felt so repulsed by the sonata that it rocked the entire pedestal upon which I had placed Tolstoy. It might just keel over... ( )
1 vote hampusforev | Jul 20, 2011 |
This edition contains:
- Family Happiness, 1859
- The Death of Ivan Ilych, 1886
- The Kreutzer Sonata, 1889
- Hadji Murad, 1904

I was very happy with this little collection and liked the last two stories even better than the title story. Themes throughout the stories:

- Brilliant descriptions of nature and of the moment. "Life dominates Tolstoy as the soul dominates Doestoevsky", as Virgina Woolf put it.

- Psychology behind character's motivations and actions well ahead of psychological theories and most other fiction.

- Brutal honesty: in the dissolution of happiness, the long drawn-out struggle with death, and in men's attitudes towards women ("what man wants is the body").

- The hypocrisy in people's private thoughts, quackery in doctors, newspaper reporting, and actions in the military ranks leading all the way up to Czar Nicholas, who is scathingly criticized.

- Hadji Murad is a miniature War and Peace, illustrating history as "the sum of so many individual self-interested actions", as Goldfarb puts it in the intro, and taking place in Chechnya, making it interesting relative to recent history.

On passion, from "Family Happiness"
"But at that moment something in me responded so intensely to the excitement and passion of that hated alien man. Such an insuperable longing was in me to abandon myself to the kisses of that coarse and handsome mouth, to the embraces of those white hands with delicate veins and rings on their fingers. Such a craving possessed me to fling myself headlong into the inviting abyss of forbidden pleasures that had suddenly opened at my feet."

from "The Kreutzer Sonata":
"Yes, but that is true only in novels, but never in real life. In real life this preference for one person rather than another may occasionally last for a year, more frequently it is measured by months, or even by weeks or days or hours."

On marriage, from "The Death of Ivan Ilych":
"He perceived that matrimony, at least with his wife, was not invariably conducive to the pleasures and properties of life; but, on the contrary, often destructive of them, and that it was therefore essential to erect some barrier to protect himself from these disturbances."

from the "Kreutzer Sonata":
"Exist? Yes, but why do they [marriages] exist? They have existed and exist for people who see in marriage something sacred - a sacrament which is entered into before God - for such people it exists. Among us, people get married, seeing nothing in marriage except copulation, and the result is either deception or violence. When it is deception it is very easy to endure. Husband and wife only deceive people into believing that they are living a monogamous marriage, but they are really practicing polygamy and polyandry."

and this, describing the honeymoon:
"It was awkward, shameful, vile, pitiable, and above all, it was wearisome, unspeakably wearisome. It was something analogous to what I experienced when I was first learning to smoke, when I was sick at my stomach and salivated, and I swallowed it down and pretended that it was very pleasant. Just as from that, the delights of marriage, if there are any, will be subsequent; the husband must educate his wife in this vice, in order to procure any pleasure from it."

On men, from "The Kreutzer Sonata":
"In all novels the feelings of the heroes, the ponds, the bushes around which they wander, are described in detail; but though their mighty love to some particular maiden is described, nothing is said about what the interesting hero was doing before, not a word about his frequenting 'houses of indulgence', about his relations with chambermaids, cooks, and other women ... Improper novels of this kind - if there are any - are not put into the hands of those who most of all need to know about these things - that is, young women."

On death, from "the Death of Ivan Ilych"
"All about him did not or would not understand, and believed that everything in the world was going on as before. This was what tortured Ivan Ilych more than anything."

"...all were aware that all interest in him for other people consisted now in the question how soon he would leave this place empty, free the living from the constraint of his presence, and be set free himself from his sufferings."

On child-rearing, from "The Kreutzer Sonata" (I found it interesting this had been going on 100+ years ago, it's certainly true today):
"...she had heard from all sides and had read endlessly varied and contradictory rules: you must feed it this way, no not this way, but so; how to dress it, what to give it to drink, when to bathe it, when to put it to sleep, when to take it out to walk, ventilation, - in regard to all this, we - and she especially - learned new rules every week. Just as if children began to be born only yesterday!"

On leaders blind to reality, from "Hadji Murad":
"Continual brazen flattery from everybody around him, in the teeth of obvious facts, had brought him to such as state that he no longer saw his own inconsistencies or measured his actions and words by reality logic or even by simple common sense; but was quite convinced that all his orders, however senseless unjust and mutually contradictory they might be, became reasonably just and mutually accordant simply because he gave them."

On war, from "Hadji Murad":
"The feeling experienced by all the Chechens, from the youngest to the oldest, was stronger than hate. It was not hatred, for they did not regard those Russian dogs as human beings; but it was such revulsion, disgust and perplexity at the senseless cruelty of these creatures, that the desire to exterminate them - like the desire to exterminate rats, poisonous spiders, or wolves - was as natural an instinct as that of self-preservation." ( )
  gbill | Jan 29, 2010 |
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» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Leo Tolstoyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Duff, J. D.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Margarshack, DavidAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maude, AlymerTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McLean, HughAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
FAMILY HAPPINESS: We were in mourning for my mother, who had died in the autumn, and we spent the whole winter in the country- Katya, Sonya, and I.
THE DEATH OF IVAN ILYCH: Inside the great building of the Law Courts, during the interval in the hearing of the Melvinsky case, the members of the judicial council and the public prosecutor were gathered together in the private room of Ivan Yegorovich Shebek, and the conversation turned upon the celebrated Krasovsky case.
THE KREUTZER SONATA: It was early spring.
HADJI MURAD: I was returning home by the fields.
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Book description
Introduction by Anthony Briggs
"The Raid"
"The Woodfelling"
"Three Deaths"
"The death of Ivan Ilyich"
"After the ball"
"The forged coupon"
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0451528808, Paperback)

Leo Tolstoy combined detailed physical description with perceptive psychological insight to sweep aside the sham of surface appearances and lay bare man's intimate gestures, acts, and thoughts. Murder and sacrifice...greed and devotion...lust and affection...vanity and love -- one by one, in this volume of great stories, Tolstoy dissects the basic drives, emotions, and motives of ordinary people searching for self-knowledge and spiritual perfection. Chekhov said, "Of authors my favorite is Tolstoy." And Turgenev "marveled at the strength of his huge talent...It sends a cold shudder even down my back...He is a master, a master."

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:39:33 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

The Death of Ivan Illych and Other Stories, by Elizabeth Gaskell, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriateAll editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

    Chief among Tolstoy's shorter works is The Death of Ivan Ilych, a masterful meditation on the act of dying. The first major fictional work published by Tolstoy after a mid-life psychological crisis, this novella reflects the author's struggle to find meaning in life, a challenge Tolstoy resolved by developing a religious philosophy based on brotherly love, mutual support, and charity. These guiding principles are the dominant moral themes in The Death of Ivan Ilych, an account of the spiritual conversion of a judge—an ordinary, unthinking, vulgar man—in the face of his terrible fear about death.Also included in this volume are Family Happiness, an early work that traces the arc of a marriage; The Kreutzer Sonata, a frank tale of sexual love that shocked readers when it first appeared; and Hadji Murd, Tolstoy's final masterpiece about power politics, intrigue, and colonial conquest.David Goldfarb teaches Polish, Russian, and Comparative Literature at Barnard College and Columbia University. He has written about Witold Gombrowicz, Bruno Schulz, Zbigniew Herbert, Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, Mikhail Lermontov, and Nikolai Gogol.… (more)

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Penguin Australia

Two editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141023600, 0140449612

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