The Death of Ivan Ilich (illustrated) (Best Illustrated Books Book 25)
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View all 17 comments. View 2 comments. Mostly, the first leads to the second or the third! As with any collection of stories, there are some I like more than others. I have something to say, which, for lovers of literature, might be borderline blasphemous. Just okay.
Ex-people (in Russian) / Бывшие Люди
His prose is good, but not magnificent; his characters are relatable, but not unforgettable; his stories are interesting, but not quite compelling. In fact, of the four great Russian writers I I have something to say, which, for lovers of literature, might be borderline blasphemous. In fact, of the four great Russian writers I recall having read—Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Turgenev, and Lermontov—I would put Tolstoy in third place, in front of Turgenev, with Lermontov marginally better than him and Dostoyevsky leagues ahead of anyone else. However after he falls off a ladder, he soon discovers that he is going to die.
The Death of Ivan Ilyich is a novella that deals with the meaning of life in the face of death. A masterpiece for Leo Tolstoy written after his religious conversion in the late s. Something that was fascinating about The Death of Ivan Ilyich is the drastic change in writing style when comparing it to Anna Karenina and War and Peace. I am not just referring to the length, but that does play a big part.
I have read somewhere that Tolstoy intentionally made Anna Karenina and War and Peace so long because he wanted to replicate life and the journey the characters face. Allowing the reader to experience every decision and moral dilemma that the character is facing, exploring the growth or evolution of each and every person within the novels. The Death of Ivan Ilyich takes a more focused approach, dealing with major questions revolving around the meaning of life, death and spirituality. Leo Tolstoy had a major conversion in the late s and the questions in this novel were the questions he was asking himself.
Whether or not Ivan Ilyich found the answers he was looking for is up to the reader but it is believed that Leo Tolstoy was still looking for the same answers well after finishing this novella. There is a lot of pain and torment that appears in this book, which reflects the authors search for answers and that is what really stood out for me. This is what makes this a masterpiece that explores the tortured artist in great detail.
Generally, I find it hard to rate a single-author short-story collection five stars because either the quality varies, or too many of the stories sound similar. But with this collection, there are no duds, and there is also a wide variation in the types of stories. Highly recommended. This is a clear case of It's not you, it's me! I simply wasn't ready for this. When I couldn't participate in the War and Peace -readalong due to my busy schedule, I decided to compensate by reading a short story collection by Tolstoy instead.
I thought it would be quick and fun. I couldn't have been more wrong. It turns out that Tolstoy is much more philosophical and political than I expected, and since I have no knowledge whatsover on Russian history and culture, it was extremely hard for me to This is a clear case of It's not you, it's me! It turns out that Tolstoy is much more philosophical and political than I expected, and since I have no knowledge whatsover on Russian history and culture, it was extremely hard for me to follow along.
On a very subjective note, I have to say that I found the stories except for The Forged Coupon extremely boring and drawn-out.
The Death of Ivan Ilyich : Tolstoy, : : Blackwell's
The characters weren't memorable and I didn't connect to any of them. I really had to force myself to keep on turning the pages. But on a more objective note, after having done more research on each short story and the author himself turns out Tolstoy almost got murdered by a bear once Tolstoy in his later years was famously a man with a mission. From the s he sought more directly to understand the turmoil of contemporary Russia which escalated after the assassination of Alexander II in and in his lifetime culminated in the Revolution of No solutions, Tolstoy felt, could be found either for the problems individuals or society faced without due consideration of issues about property and ownership, the meaning of spiritual enlightement, the formulation of ethical ideals, and identifying sources of goodness and evil.
Tolstoy's later works of fiction, such as the stories collected here, reflect sustained soul-searching about the value of literature. The concern of how people live only intensified as his own spiritual crises in the late s and s brought a life-changing sense of his own mortality. Having lived as a young man for himself, and then been the family man on his country estate, Tolstoy had begun to lvie for others and for God. He convinced himself that social activism and the promotion of what he called 'a good life' were his true vocation. The first short story in this collection, The Two Old Men , deals with the ethics of character.
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In Tolstoy's fiction man and woman are social animals, subject to the pressures of class, the village, the family unit, and peer group. Through his virtually daily interaction with peasants at his school, on the estate, and in his restless rambling about the countryside, Tolstoy collected dozens of anectodes and tales that in his view distilled the moral essence of the Russian peasantry. The Two Old Men emanates from that world, situating the timelessness of Christian pilgrimage within the modern world of steamships and itineraries.
At the centre of the story are two peasant heroes, one rich and one poor, whose pilgrimage provides the horizontal structure for the episodes they experience. One of them, in his exemplary selflessness, acquires the reputation of a saint, while the other finely balances material and spiritual concerns. Both are treated affectionately by Tolstoy and reflect his ideal of Christian humanism. Tolstoy repeatedly denounced money as an evil when coveted for itself.
Tolstoy's concern regarding the dangers of property-ownership stem from his belief that once you own property you are obliged to defend it, and once the need arises for defence violence must follow. Like other stories in this volume, this one pits individual determination against accident. The story considers the paradox that the more one strives after material security, the greater the risk that everything will be forfeited.
The story is attuned to the psychological stress of ownership when an individual negotiates between an old idea of sufficency and a seductive image of wealth. Harmony both for the individual and society could be achieved if and only if individuals achieved an inner state of control over their wants. Impulses to the good and bad might be temporarily held in check, but human nature put human beings at the mercy of combinations of personality and circumstance that could wreck nouble intentions.
The next two stories, The Forged Coupon and Master and Workman , deal with questions of justice and how causality and motivation can determine one's actions. In Tolstoy's later works, no heroes make any great claims for controlling events, and the focus of the narrator is on seeing events as they unfold, sometimes bewilderingly. One key question for Tolstoy is whether randomness leads anywhere, whether the destination might be accidental and still have moral significance.
The Forged Coupon takes up the problem of unintended consequences and illustrates the shift in emphasis from agency to accident, and to seeing the whole picture in terms of the butterfly effect, where distant rather than proximate causes contribute to a sequence. Part 1 is structured as a chain of seemingly unrelated events that all derive from a single mishap at the beginning. Or do they? The story could be driven by coincidence that is unfortunate but fatal. In Master and Workman Tolstoy reveals the fluidity of identity as a set of impulses and responses that are fixed in the timelessness of the present as lived through.
A landowner and servant set out on a short jounrey by sled. They lose their way briefly during a sudden snowstorm, and subsequently regain the right path only to be led fatally off course by recurring bad weather. The blizzard has served Russian writers well to represent overwhelming force, whether elemental nature, fate, or an oppressive state. At one level, this is a tale of two individuals whose class relations, socio-economic status, and expectations determine their response to the storm and to their fate, controlled to some unknowable degree by luck.
And yet at the same time, in its use of an elemental setting the story also has the universal quality of a fable whose precise lesson can be suggested but not entirely fixed. In the last two stories, Alyosha Pot and The Death of Ivan Ilyich , Tolstoy processes his struggle to square the circle of life and death, of meaning and erasure. Does death necessarily make life senseless? Tolstoy, who often assumed extreme positions before arguing his way back to a more nuanced view, clearly found the conclusion that 'there is nothing worse than life' intuitively and intellectually unacceptable.
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The need to go out and meet and make life, rather than allow life to come to one passively, defined his philosophy. In Alyosha Pot Tolstoy uses his art to capture the thoughts and feelings of the meekest of men, a hero who is only seemingly simple but incarnates an ideal of wise resignation and selfless love. Alyosha's emotional intelligence, however, is beyond the reach of his masters who, coarse and unsympathetic, refuse him the right to marry. The Death of Ivan Ilyich is an unflinching depiction of social hypocrisy.
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Yet Tolstoy uses this tale also to raise the possibility that Ivan Ilyich's resignation to death also occasions a spiritual awakening. The light he sees instead of death is limitless and indefinable. This collection is packed with a lot of brilliant ideas and so much food for thought that I will take my time to properly digest them. Whilst the stories were no particular joy to read and definitely too fastidious for me, I still had a lot of fun researching them and learning a bit more about Tolstoy himself.
Against his better own better judgment, he proposes. As she matures, she discovers the cosmopolitan appeal of St. Petersburg, which her husband already has come to disdain. The best scenes in this affecting descent into realistic accommodation as opposed to romantic love have to do with the two of them baiting one another, withdrawing from one another, and generally underperforming their personal values.
In the end, their love still glows but casts off neither flames nor light. The way he is emotionally abandoned by his family before he expires is highly educational and not altogether unwarranted. And then he tumbles into the tunnel of no return, a ghastly journey. This is a masterpiece of narration and irony.
Tolstoy always has a grip on his subject here. The same cannot quite be said of "The Kreutzer Sonata," which suffers from a gassy run-up to the facts of the matter, i. Hadji Murad is a tale of Russias endless assaults on the peoples of the Caucasus region. Hadji is a chieftain at war with another chieftain. He's decided to align himself with the Russians in the hopes of rescuing his kidnapped family and taking over as the principal lord of of the Muslim lands under Russia's control, however.
This is a majestic story of action, ethnographic insight, and cross-cultural cynicism.