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The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories Paperback – Oct 5 2010

4.5 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; First Vintange edition (Oct. 5 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307388867
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307388865
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2.2 x 20.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 386 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #157,306 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“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.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
Tolstoy's short novel starts with the aftermath of Ivan Ilych's death. His colleagues gather to execute the polite formalities before moving on with relief to their regular whist game. "Well isn't that something--he's dead, but I'm not."

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.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I am so sorry only 9 other people have reviewed this book for Amazon. If it were up to me, I'd place a copy in every hotel and motel room in America, right next to Gideon. I realize that some books just hit us the right way at certain times in our lives, and I once had a hard time trying to persuade 18- and 19-year-olds to appreciate this one. But when I was around 30, I read the title novella, and it changed my life by changing my outlook on life and enabling me to make some decisions I'd never have taken seriously if I hadn't read it.
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.
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By A Customer on Jan. 7 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I bought this book to test the waters before I tackled something big like his War and Peace, and to gain appreciation for such a well respected author before a teacher or professor had the opportunity to shove it down my throat. I am very glad I did!
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.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is an exceptional book. On one front, you have an opportunity to explore Tolstoy's mind without devouring one of his more notable (and lengthy) novels (War and Peace, Anna K). That alone should be worth reading the 100 or so pages.

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?
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Format: Library Binding
Few literary works are capable of properly representing Christianity especially in such a brilliant way. The few that do are Flannery O' Connor and Dostoevsky's works. However, the problem that occurs is that people who are not Christians in order to understand the work create their own idea of what the author is trying to say. For instance, The Death Of Ivan Ilyich is often seen only in existential terms by those that are not Christian or is given a broad psychological analysis. What the work is really about is the selfishness of man, his loneliness,and the meaninglessness of life without Christ. He empahsizes the meaninglessness by Ilyich and their all consuming materialism. Notice how no matter how much his wages increase it isn't enough. This should resonate with American society, however it is too busy trying to act as Ivan and his family did. Although, written before Capitalism, Tolstoy stunningly rebukes it. In addtion, he brilliantly shows what true Christianity is about and not as the American church would like people to perceive it. For instance, he repeatedly emphasizes the notion of dying to sin (dead to sin) and being alive in Christ. But this is too often missed because people have failed to understand the true nature of Christianity. How he does this is brilliant. For instance, in the beginning of the book his supposed friends are seen as thinking well at least he's dead and I'm not. But Tolstoy is mocking them and everyone who thinks this way. For they are really dead in that they are spirtually dead and slaves to sin, while Ivan has moved on from being dead in sin to dead to sin and alive in Christ. This is what baptism is supposed to represent.Read more ›
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