The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy

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Synopsis

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.
 

About Leo Tolstoy

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Count Leo Tolstoy was born on September 9, 1828, in Yasnaya Polyana, Russia. Orphaned at nine, he was brought up by an elderly aunt and educated by French tutors until he matriculated at Kazan University in 1844. In 1847, he gave up his studies and, after several aimless years, volunteered for military duty in the army, serving as a junior officer in the Crimean War before retiring in 1857. In 1862, Tolstoy married Sophie Behrs, a marriage that was to become, for him, bitterly unhappy. His diary, started in 1847, was used for self-study and self-criticism; it served as the source from which he drew much of the material that appeared not only in his great novels War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877), but also in his shorter works. Seeking religious justification for his life, Tolstoy evolved a new Christianity based upon his own interpretation of the Gospels. Yasnaya Polyana became a mecca for his many converts At the age of eighty-two, while away from home, the writer suffered a break down in his health in Astapovo, Riazan, and he died there on November 20, 1910.
 
Published April 27, 2004 by Bantam Classics. 128 pages
Genres: Education & Reference, Literature & Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Travel, Children's Books, Religion & Spirituality, History, Crafts, Hobbies & Home, Action & Adventure. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Death of Ivan Ilyich

The Guardian

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The translation here reads fine – that of Ilyich in particular – the introduction is helpful, and there are 30 pages of biography, notes and suggestions for further reading, which weirdly do not include Nabokov's Lectures on Russian Literature, so I mention them here.

Jul 28 2011 | Read Full Review of The Death of Ivan Ilyich

BC Books

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As Tolstoy well knew, the manner in which we choose to face death determines mightily the ways in which we are able to face life.

Aug 22 2012 | Read Full Review of The Death of Ivan Ilyich

BC Books

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Tolstoy’s most profound criticism is not in noting that we as individuals react to death in selfish, materialistic, and fearful ways, but that the very nature of our modern society almost requires us to gloss over the reality of death.

Aug 22 2012 | Read Full Review of The Death of Ivan Ilyich

BC Books

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Pevear and Volokhonsky know how to use bluntness to great effect, such as saying the death of his two children made family life “still more unpleasant for Ivan Ilyich.” As the title reminds us, “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” is ultimately about death, or rather in what way life should be lived consi...

Aug 22 2012 | Read Full Review of The Death of Ivan Ilyich

Seattle PI

The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories gives us recent translations of 11 of Leo Tolstoy's poignant short stories by the two most renowned Russian translators today, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.

Aug 22 2012 | Read Full Review of The Death of Ivan Ilyich

The Gospel Coalition

The exception to the prevailing indifference of the world is Ivan's butler, Gerasim, who shares Ivan's suffering, who "alone did not lie," and who holds Ivan's legs on his shoulders to ease the pain.

May 31 2013 | Read Full Review of The Death of Ivan Ilyich

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