The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories Paperback – Oct 5 2010
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“Excellent. . . . The duo has managed to convey the rather simple elegance of Tolstoy’s prose.” —The New Criterion
“[Tolstoy’s] late style is leaner, his forms more spare, but this is also the economy of achieved mastery. He does more with less, and the Tolstoyan sounds, instantly recognizable, are still there. . . . [Pevear and Volokhonsky’s] new version is more flexible, individuated, immediate.” —The Nation
“The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories is a great collection well translated. As a lover of Tolstoy’s work, one couldn’t ask for more, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.” —André Alexis, The Globe and Mail
About the Author
Count Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy displayed an extraordinary duality of character in a life filled with deep contradictions. He was born to an artistocratic Russian family on Sept. 9, 1828. His parents died when he was young, and he was raised by several female relatives. In 1844 he entered the University of Kazan, remaining there only three years. At the age of 23, Tolstoy joined the Russian Army and fought in the Crimean War. While still in the service, his first published story appeared, a largely autobiographical work called Childhood (1852). Tolstoy returned to his estate in 1861 and and established a school for peasant children there. In 1862, he married Sofia Behrs and gradually abandoned his involvement with the school. The next fifteen years he devoted to managing the estate, raising his and Sofia's large family, and writing his two major works, War and Peace (1865-67) and Anna Karenina (1875-77). During the latter part of this fifteen-year period, Tolstoy found himself growing increasingly disenchanted with the teachings of the Russian Orthodox Church. In the ensuing years, Tolstoy formulated for himself a new Christian ideal, the central creed of which involved nonresistance to evil; he also preached against the corrupt evil of the Russian state, of the need for ending all violence, and of the moral perfectibility of man. He continued to write voluminously, primarily nonfiction, but also other works, such as The Death of Ivan Ilyich (1886). In 1910, still unable to reconcile the differences in the lives led by the aristocracy and the simpler existence he craved, Tolstoy left the estate. He soon fell ill and was found dead on a cot in a remote railway station. He was buried on his estate at Yasnaya Pulyana.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Ivan Ilych is a self-satisfied high court judge who injured himself in a fall, and later fell ill with a vaguely diagnosed disturbance of his organs. At first the pain is an offensive intruder to his smug routine but it becomes worse and eventually it's clear that he is dying. Clear, that is, to him, though his family and colleagues infuriate him by living the lie that he will recover if he just follows the doctor's advice.
Tolstoy makes it plain to the reader in the early part of the story that Ivan Ilych's life is hollow and calculating. His marriage was undertaken casually and for convenience, not love. He takes pride in the trappings and petty powers of his position as a prosecutor and a judge. When he falls ill and consults a physician, he takes umbrage at the impersonal formalities and the patronizing air of the doctor--a mirror image of his own demeanor in his court.
Tolstoy himself was plagued by the idea of death, its inevitability and unfairness, and he wrote all his rage against death into this short piece. Critics believe that he also wrote his conversion to Christianity into it as well. Ivan Ilych denies the importance of his pain as long as he can, then pours out his anger at the unfairness of it all, becoming "difficult" at home and work. One moment he believes the medicines and positive thinking will put things right, the next he's overwhelmed with despair that life could all come down to this.Read more ›
But I don't want to scare you off. Tolstoy is perfectly accessible, the title character's dilemma is heartrending (the title gives you a clue), the characters universal, and the effect upon closing the cover after the last page indelible. If one person reads it after reading these 10 reviews, I'll be happy.
Tolstoy has a gift for words that draws the readers in and allows him to project his character's emotions onto them. He has the capacity to be romantic without being mushy or dark without being overbearing. At the end, he left me with a sincere impression, profound respect and still-lingering admiration.
This book belongs on everyone's bookshelves.
On another front, this work ranks up there as one of the greatest literary achievements since ink found its way on paper. Do not be fooled by the titled. This book is not about death, but about life. After finishing this book, one question loomed frequently in my head: is death nothing more than a state of mind?
Most recent customer reviews
The death of Ivan Ilyich teaches the reader the what should be valued in life, and how one should live.Published 2 months ago by Mishelle
Excellent translation... Short stories written in the late 1800 full of contemporary learning.Published 12 months ago by Sara Sonego-Young
An eloquent reflection on death and the meaning of life before it. Not light but mercifully short considering the poignancy of the subject.Published 19 months ago by James Walmsley
To be able to "dip in and dip out" of the prose of Leo Tolstoy is really a privilege, and this new translation makes it even more so. Read morePublished on May 7 2010 by Paul Reinhardt
Prior to writing "The Death of Ivan Illych," Tolstoy had undergone a nearly overwhelming existential crisis, and here he lays it out with the black humor of a bemused... Read morePublished on Oct. 2 2003 by Josh
We are born knowing only life but it takes courage to realize this and rise above the mundane, to make the ordinary extraordinary, fully exploring and experiencing life for the... Read morePublished on March 15 2003 by Damian P. Gadal