The Death of Ivan Ilych

by

Leo TOLSTOY

76 pages

Publication:  1886 / 2008, by Melville House

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MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK

Just like for the previous novella I reviewed, this was an opportunity to reconnect with an author I had read many years ago. I enjoyed very much Anna Karenina in my teens, but  gave up recently on  War And Peace (as audiobook).

The theme has some commonality with As I Lay Dying, which I loved a lot by the way, but set and dealt with in a more modern way, with all the possible reactions to illness and knowing that death is definitely at the threshold. Within a satirical context of a superficial society, Ivan goes deeper and deeper into self-knowledge, and knowledge of truth and human condition. After all his agony, the ending is very beautiful, at least according to my interpretation: when you finally accept to see yourself as you are, you reach inner freedom, peace, and the door opens to a new Life.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT

By the time he dies, Ivan Ilych has come to understand the worthlessness of his life. Paradoxically, this elevates him above the common man, who avoids the reality of death and the effort it takes to make life worthwhile. In Tolstoy’s own words, “Ivan Ilyich’s life had been . . . most ordinary and therefore most terrible.” [Goodreads]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (Russian: Лев Никола́евич Толсто́й), commonly referred to in English as Leo (Lyof, Lyoff) Tolstoy, was a Russian writer – novelist, essayist, dramatist and philosopher – as well as pacifist Christian anarchist and educational reformer. He was the most influential member of the aristocratic Tolstoy family.

As a fiction writer, Tolstoy is widely regarded as one of the greatest of all novelists, particularly noted for his masterpieces War and Peace and Anna Karenina. In their scope, breadth and realistic depiction of 19th-century Russian life, the two books stand at the peak of realist fiction. As a moral philosopher Tolstoy was notable for his ideas on nonviolent resistance through works such as The Kingdom of God is Within You, which in turn influenced such twentieth-century figures as Mohandas K. Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. [Goodreads]

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