The Death of Ivan Ilyich
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The Death of Ivan Ilyich

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3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  36,916 ratings  ·  1,536 reviews
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, T...more
Paperback, Bantam Classic Reissue, 113 pages
Published May 1st 2004 by Bantam Classic (first published 1884)
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Jenn(ifer)
May 18, 2012 Jenn(ifer) rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Schopenhauer
Recommended to Jenn(ifer) by: Virginia Woolf
"“Death is over," he said to himself. "There is no more death.”

When I picked this book up at a library book sale, I did so without expectation that I would actually enjoy reading it. See, I had mistakenly given up on the masters of Russian literature due to the struggles I had reading a particular novel (I’m looking at you Brothers Karamazov!), assuming they were all inaccessible and there was no point in expending anymore energy trying to make sense of books with characters that go by 3 differe...more
brian
you're all excited about someone new only to discover that the beatles are their all-time favorite band. and it all starts to unravel, eh? the beatles are the most popular pop/rock band of all time, wildly innovative, probably wrote more great songs than any other band... but your all-time favorite band? dull dull dull. i think i'd even take someone who champions rush or the eagl- (no, not the eagles. any other band but the eagles, steve miller, or aerosmith) over the beatles just because it's m...more
Lou
You are transported to the world of Ivan and walk with him to his last moments at deaths door. A story of the terror of death and Ivan's fear of dying, his concern and sorrow for his families witnessing of his howling and decline. Suffering realizes joy of youth and memories of the best of days, while he is in this process of death the solitude brings him to doors of gone memories of happiness. How our daily trappings take us away from finer and truer happier moments of life, a time lost so valu...more
Mike Puma

A mini-review not intended for the easily offended (i.e., there’s a dirty part)

But first, Constance Garnett. Is it possible that this woman was the best and worst thing to happen to all Russian public domain titles? She seems to have translated everything Russian that was in print at the time of her demise. Given that her translations are, likely, the stuff much academic criticism is based on, one has to wonder what could have been. There is a vague sort of missed opportunity that hovers over t

...more
Bruce
Each time I reread Tolstoy’s little novella, The Death of Ivan Ilych, I read it differently. As a college student I read it as a description of an experience for someone elderly, an experience distant, almost unreal, so far in the future as to be strange, almost surreal. Reading it again during my years as a practicing physician, I was impressed by Tolstoy’s perceptiveness of the stages of grieving, the writings of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross being then all the rage, and how my patients had similar ex...more
Rowena
The more Tolstoy I read, the more I appreciate his literary genius and his philosophic thoughts. This was a relatively short book dealing with Ivan Ilyich's realization of his impending death. His life had been mediocre at best and he realizes he hadn't really been happy and had been trying to live an "ideal" life. What awful thoughts to realize when one is so close to death!
Carmo Santos

É duro, é real e assusta! Uma pedrada no charco das nossas consciências que vem acordar os nossos medos perante a doença, a incapacidade e a morte.
O presságio da morte trás consigo uma solidão opressiva, uma impotência e uma revolta que ninguém à volta do doente poderá aliviar. Perante a fatalidade surgem as inevitáveis perguntas:
-Porquê eu? Porquê agora? A verdade é pode acontecer a cada um de nós em qualquer momento. Não queremos é pensar nisso, como se o simples facto de não pensar, seja suf...more
Komal
"As soon as man lives, he is old enough to die."

I have now understood the reasons and significance behind the categorization of Count Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy as among one of the finest literary figures, in Russia and elsewhere. Leo Tolstoy penned this book in the year 1886--shortly before he began to pursue religion and teachings of the life after this one. The Death of Ivan Ilyich is a short novella and it faces boldly the materialistic issues and philosophical meanderings tied to the concept...more
Nikki
Normally a book that looks this closely at death would, I'm afraid, terrify me. I have enough anxiety already, I don't need to think about the "dragging pain" in Ivan Ilyich's side, which -- being a doctor's daughter -- I could diagnose fairly easily as some kind of cancer, quite probably cancer of the gallbladder. That "dragging pain" is the giveaway to me, because it was in all the descriptions of the sort of pain cancer of the gallbladder causes. I know all about that because of the anxious p...more
Daniel Pecheur
Wow is my first expression upon having finished my first Tolstoy- his novella The Death of Ivan Ilyich, which the Russian master wrote after a religious conversion. Tolstoy is a master of fine details and resplendent subtlety. The work is a meditation on the human condition as Tolstoy saw it, tinged by Christian asceticism, in the case of the title character and all those around him who have succumbed to the spiritual decay of living in monochromatic conformity with the values and the superficia...more
julieta
Pobre Ivan Ilich. Se le fué la vida en nada y se dió cuenta un momento antes de morir.
Porque se entera de que todo ha sido una mentira, qué puede ser más terrible que eso? Es de una tristeza profunda y cansada, llena de desilusión y de tiempo perdido.
Se enferma sin darse cuenta, pensando que estaba viviendo una vida ideal.

Cada paso que damos nos acerca a un acierto, o a un error.

Le cuesta aceptar que “no ha vivido su vida como debía”, porque es como decir que no tuvo ningún sentido, al encontrar...more
Florencia
Mar 05, 2014 Florencia rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: any human being
Shelves: russian, favorites
I read this novella a couple of weeks ago and I didn't write a review right away; I had to put my thoughts in order (they rarely are but, oh well). That only happens after reading an amazing book, brilliantly written, that deals with the human condition like Dostoyevsky's keen eye can deal. This book is about life itself, life in its most virtuous and degrading glory. This masterpiece has no more than 120 pages, but it manages to show many perspectives on different issues concerning the human na...more
Elijah Kinch Spector
(I actually read this in Great Short Works.)
"What is this? Can it be that it is Death?" And the inner voice answered: "Yes, it is Death."
"Why these sufferings?" And the voice answered, "For no reason--they are just so."
p. 296 in Great Short Works

I fucking love Tolstoy so much. He's not just ahead of his time, he's usually ahead of his reader, too.

If I wanted to be kind, to myself, I'd say that The Death of Ivan Ilyich is about a boring man looking back on his life and wondering if he's wasted it...more
Karen
There are about 10 works of literature that I think about almost on a daily basis. This novella is one of them. Tolstoy pens a story about the basics of life and does so with a satirical yet understated tone. We meet a man who is bogged down in the pettiness of day-to-day cares until the spectre of death hangs over him, causing him to question the meaning of life, the meaning of his life. In this novella, time and space constrict to leave the title character stripped of all the vanities that dis...more
Teresa
teresa morreu…
os colegas animam-se com a oportunidade de promoção por sucessão…
o conjugue preocupa-se em aproveitar todas as oportunidades de receber subsídios, pensões,…
mas, primeiro, há que passar pela maçada da cerimónia dos pêsames, velório e funeral.

teresa nasceu, cresceu, estudou, trabalhou, casou, foi mãe…

teresa está a viver a sua morte…
um acidente, ao colocar cortinados na casa nova, causa-lhe um problema renal que a arrasta para uma morte lenta, dolorosa e solitária.
O sofrimento é atro...more
arcobaleno
Un enorme terribile inganno nascondeva la vita e la morte.
Non è facile scrivere in modo approfondito della morte: trovare, attraverso giuste parole, l’equilibrio tra i sentimenti evocati, la misura tra il banale e il complesso; rendere chiaro ed efficace il proprio punto di vista o "credo". L’argomento, poi, può far paura al lettore che lo tiene spesso lontano perfino dai propri pensieri, come per allontanare la morte stessa.
Eppure, con mirabile maestria e opportuna naturalezza, riesce, Tolsto...more
أحمد أبازيد Ahmad Abazed
موت ايفان ايليتش , إحدى قصص تولستوي الخالدة .
أنا معجب بقصص تولستوي و أثّرت بي كثيراً و أنا صغير السنّ , أكثر من رواياته دون أن ننفي ملحميّة رواياته و كونها أضحت جزءاً من الذاكرة البشرية , موت ايفان ايليتش تقع بين القصة و الرواية , و يصف فيها موت ايفان ايليتش ابن الطبقة الوسطى , ايفان الذي يدرك قبل موته بساعات فقط أنّه بسبب خضوعه لدوره المسبق في مسرحية المجتمع و توزيعه الطبقي و الوظيفي كان قد أمضى حياته كما لا يجب أن تكون , خاليةً من العواطف و الحميمية و الأخطاء حتى , ربما سلّم نفسه للموت مرتاحا...more
Ken Moten
"O death, where is thy sting?..." 1 Corinthians 15:55 (KJV)

"And suddenly it grew clear to him that what had been oppressing him and would not leave him...He was sorry for them, he must act so as not to hurt them: release them and free himself from these sufferings."


This short story was my introduction to Leo Tolstoy and it was interesting. I was just getting introduced to Russian literature through Fyodor Dostoevsky and had read his novella Notes from Underground while also getting ready to rea...more
Mark
Not "perfect" but the ambition of this effort is admirable.

Some things that hinder this novella are the preachy tone that begins to slip in in the last section, the needless repetition of certain scenes, and the slight treatment of Ilych's early years.

The preachy tone doesn't batter the reader over the head but it does give only one "answer" to the Question of Life, and all but claims it to be the one and only answer. Going in, I knew some things about Tolstoy's later years, and his own philos...more
kaśyap
This is a brilliant short piece. Ivan Ilyich is a man who lives spiritless existence. A successful bureaucrat trapped in security. Going through vain pursuits and other motions of life that add little meaning to his self.

The idea of his own death finally wakes his conscience. When facing death, he tries to grasp onto his life and material security with despair.One can see the sheer incapability of Ivan Ilyich in facing his own mortality when he grapples with and cannot understand the implication...more
David Lentz
In the end as death approaches Ivan Ilyich gives himself credit for living a right life. That is, he considers that he has lived a life which fulfills the expectations that he has had for himself. He has after all become a successful and even influential magistrate in the judicial council. Essentially, he considers himself an ethical man. The question which which torments him, as he approaches the end of his life, is whether he led the right life. Did he lead a life that was the best possible on...more
Shari
The story is as simple as the title suggests: The Death of Ivan Ilyich is about the death of Ivan Ilyich. And yet, in this novella Tolstoy carefully and artfully portrayed the physical, mental and spiritual effects of death coming upon a man who cannot let go and still wants to live in spite of his terrible marriage and the burdening responsibilities of being among the people he supposedly love and must protect. Tolstoy wrote this novella in his 60s and perhaps in this stage of his life, when hi...more
Babak Habibi
کلا همیشه از داستان‌های نویسنده‌های روس خوشم میومده مخصوصا تولستوی. چون خیلی با جزئیات همه چیز رو توصیف می‌کنن.
این کتاب رو بخاطر فیلم ایرانی "پله آخر" دیدم که آخر فیلمش نوشته بود بعضی از صحنه‌ها اقتباسی از این کتاب بوده
شخصیت ایوان ایلیچ آدم قوی هست که دنبال یه سری اهدافش میره و سعی میکنه منطقی با همه چی روبرو شه و خیلی چیزها رو بدستم میاره و درمقطعی از زندگی احسسا خوشبختی هم میکنه ولی بعدش خیلی اتفاقی دچار یه مریضی عجیبی میشه که اونو به مرگ میکشونه و ایوان ایلیچ هر روز درگیر مرگ میشهو بیشتر به چ...more
J
I have seldom read literature where authors can get into a person's head quite the way Leo Tolstoy does. I read, "The Death of Ivan Illych" with the ever present sense of dread. Even so, I could not put it down. I am amazed at the kind of detail Tolstoy delivered - even with such a short story.

I typically like longer novels but, "The Death of Ivan Illych" took only what was necessary to tell the story.

The great, Western American writer, Wallace Stegner, on discussing the craft of writing fiction...more
Kim
This is the story of the life and - as the title indicates - the death of an ordinary man. Ivan Ilych is not a particularly likeable character, nor are his wife and children, nor the colleagues who also appear in the narrative. And yet, the story of Ivan's death is powerful and moving, simply but exquisitely told. Ivan's anger, his fear, his resentment are all unflinchingly described.

I've spent the past few months acutely aware of mortality. A close friend died suddenly a few months ago. Two ot...more
Mmars
When I brought up "The Death of Ivan Ilyich" as a possible choice for book club the other night and someone read a synopsis that stated it was perhaps the greatest book ever written about death and dying, a near unanimous refrain of "I don't want to read that" passed my club members lips. I was taken aback. What is it that makes us want to avoid this unavoidable topic? Fear of the unknown? Superstition? Denial? Stirring up negative emotions?

Well, this didn't deter me! For Pete's sake, this is T...more
Yasiru (reviews will soon be removed and linked to blog)
Though rather self-indulgent, with an idealising tone that creeps in as though seizing an advantage like some pious, moralising missionary, The Death of Ivan Ilych is never flimsy, if often unsteady.
(I read the Maude translation, freely available online.)

There's a deep earnestness about Tolstoy's words when his fiction is at its best which tends to excuse any other flaw if the resonance is right with the reader. But it's not all about the emotive connection, because Tolstoy imparts a genuine gra...more
Andrew
The characters in this story didn't have that Tolstoy/Dostoevsky hook in their motivation that slapped me in the face (hook...slapping in the face... perhaps I mixed my metaphors...). It probably wasn't the point. Ivan Ilych, the character and not the book, was almost too simple for me but perhaps it was Tolstoy's intent. He again attacks the hypocrisy and shallowness of the Russian Europeanized culture. Except in this case it is the major thrust of the book as opposed to one of his many element...more
Mr.
Tolstoy's brief novella 'Death of Ivan Ilyich' is one of the most compact and brilliant meditations on the meaning of death in literature. Tolstoy's breathtaking naturalism is truly miraculous. Ivan Ilyich is respectful administrator who is dying a painful death from a malignant tumor. Much as Kafka would later do in 'The Metamorphosis,' the dying man's suffering is nothing more than an annoyance for his friends and family. He spirals into a decline of intense suffering as he must stare into the...more
Bethan
A small masterpiece and quite realistic, I think. It charters the progress of Ivan Ilyich's life but especially focuses on the time from which he became ill throughout to his death which, needless to say, is a very painful one. A good look at this latter downfall of an otherwise successful man in command of his career and life, as this highlights some of the reality of his relationships with his wife and children, and with some spendthrift habits.

Ivan Ilyich thinks that he may have done somethin...more
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Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (Russian: Лев Николаевич Толстой; commonly Leo Tolstoy in Anglophone countries) was a Russian writer who primarily wrote novels and short stories. Later in life, he also wrote plays and essays. His two most famous works, the novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina, are acknowledged as two of the greatest novels of all time and a pinnacle of realist fiction. Many consider To...more
More about Leo Tolstoy...
Anna Karenina War and Peace The Kreutzer Sonata Resurrection Childhood; Boyhood; Youth

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“He in his madness prays for storms, and dreams that storms will bring him peace” 124 likes
“Ivan Ilych's life had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible.” 55 likes
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