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The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  6,402 ratings  ·  382 reviews
Same as Knopf
Hardcover, 528 pages
Published November 12th 2009 by Vintage Classics
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you're all excited about someone new only to discover that the beatles are their all-time favorite band. 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? dullsville.

which is why i'm hesitant to call out tolstoy as my favorite writer. but he just might be. at the very least he's sitting at the (head of the?) table with genet borges orwell and the other usual suspects. i know it because when i pop
Ivan Ilych’s life revolved around his career; as a high court judge he takes his job very seriously. 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 1870s.

Something that was fascinating about The Death of Ivan Ilyich is the drastic change in writing style when comparing it to Anna Karenina
Aug 18, 2015 Sumati rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone who need to reform the ways to live a life
Recommended to Sumati by: Maa
The story of Ivan Ilyich was like wine — it goes down smoothly, but leaves a biting, succulent and lasting impression. The book is a deep and moving scrutiny of loss and absolution, in which the writer explores the dichotomy between the artificial and the authentic life. This book is probably the best account of the physiological and psychological panic, a man feels when so close to his own death.

“Ivan Ilych's life had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible.”

Ivan Ilyich
Sachin Piya
"Death of Ivan Ilych" is one of the best short stories I have ever read. In only about 100 pages, Tolstoy describes the facing of death by Ivan Ilych, who basically has lived as any other ordinary man. The story shows how once joyous and happy moments can seem worthless and fruitless moments when one is staring at death. Through this story, Tolstoy makes us look back to our life and look for anything extraordinary we have done. He makes us wonder whether doing everything that we think we "ought ...more
The story "The Death of Ivan Ilych" is one of my favorite stories ever written. Everything about it is so true. Tolstoy had that knack of speaking plain truth about subjects like death and war that we almost instinctively idealize for ourselves in our thoughts and writings, so that the simple truth, when we read it, hits us like a powerful revelation. This narrative of one man's journey from a busy, full middle class life into sickness and then his final slide into death is like death itself, bo ...more
Gordon Jonas
Tolstoy kept it very fucking real. I find that "the Russians" material is generally surprisingly relevant for this day and age, even as early as Turgenev, and this is no exception. The first story in this collection, Family Happiness, is a bit slow and maybe the least accessible of the bunch. Still, the topic of filial life is examined in an interesting, if slightly depressing way. Everything after is gold. The kreutzner sonata is dark and examines aspects of the female condition and the male ps ...more
Jan 23, 2008 Jennie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Wimps who can't handle W&P or AK
Shelves: russian-lit
Family Happiness: Well-written but trite. Still a pleasant reading experience. Such a view of marriage is very depressing though.

The Death of Ivan Ilych: Very thought-provoking, especially in the context of the literature of contemporary Russian intelligentsia. Easily the best of the bunch.

The Kreutzer Sonata: Another story where somebody is a psychologically disturbed douchebag, and tries to redeem themselves by coming up with an extensive new system of morality that justifies their actions. Pe
During my senior year in college, I was lacking an elective and like most students, wanting something interesting but equally an “easy A”. I heard terrific ravings about a “Sociology of Death and Dying” course so I signed up. It was, by far, my favorite course. No tests and just discussions and assignment regarding the psychological and sociological factors of death amongst cultures and individuals. It was amazing. We even had the county coroner come into the class to speak! Back to the point: i ...more
It's been too long since my last Russian novel, and my brother's suggestion that I try Ivan Ilyich was a welcome push back into the wonderful world of Tolstoy. In addition to the title story, this collection also included Family Happiness and The Cossacks, and they were all very enjoyable.

Family Happiness was an intriguing, if rather depressing and pessimistic, study of the disintegration of a marriage. The moral of the story seems to be that romantic love has the shelf life of a banana; and th
Excellent collection of Tolstoy's stories. "Family Happiness" and "Master and Man" were a bit slower than the other two -- "The Death of Ivan Ilych" and "The Kreutzer Sonata" -- but still well-worth the time invested. Many themes emerged in these works -- prominently death, love, the meaning of life, murder, forgiveness and greed, among other things. Though short stories they deal with hefty moral, philosophical and psychological issues. Despite the weight of the themes, however, Tolstoy tackles ...more
The Death of Ivan Ilych is notable for many things not the least being its focus on the life of Ivan Ilych; for, after introducing the narrative with the announcement of his death the story continues with his life up to and including his last days. This is the story of a very ordinary man, a Russian equivalent of an American John Smith, who is notable by his coworkers as being likable, but not so important that they do not make their first thoughts upon his death an intense discussion about how ...more
Chris Fazio
What a brutal read. The great Russian novelists had a way of attacking psychological phenomena without any frill or pretense. "The Death of Ivan Ilyich" strips bare a typical, mundane life by methodically removing each meaningless layer until the reader is left with the same terrible realization of the protagonist: that there is nothing more than this.

Tolstoy doesn't guide you toward any interpretation or offer a soothing moral. This is a story that treats death as starkly and unromantically as
doar Moartea lui I.Ilici m-a mişcat,restul rămâne e o bălăceală în stufăria basmelor(Balul,etc)
"The previous history of Ivan Ilych was the simplest, the most ordinary, and the most awful."

Brilliant. Tolstoy tackles raw emotion in a powerful, tasteful form. I put off reading this one for quite some time out of fear but I should have known that I could trust Tolstoy. This masterpiece compels you to examine the baseness of empty, materialistic values and reminds us to take heed in the way we choose to live our lives ... to be able to discern what is right from what is merely acceptable and c
Non voglio dilungarmi troppo sulla capacità stilistica di Tolstòj: ci sono un sacco di saggi e di critici per quello. L'aspetto di questo libro su cui mi voglio soffermare è la potenza narrativa dell'opera, capace di farmi coinvolgere dai protagonisti di questi racconti come poche altre volte mi era successo.
La morte di Ivàn Il'ic racconta dell'impotenza umana di fronte alla morte, quell'acerrima nemica che da sempre gli umani cercano di evitare fino all'ultimo. Nel primo capitolo un personaggio
Gina Dalfonzo
Loved these stories and LOVED this translation. Pevear and Volokhonsky are, I think, the first Russian-to-English translators I've found who don't make the language stilted and awkward. They allow the brilliance of the work to shine through, and it really is brilliant. The themes and dilemmas in these stories are so timeless they could have been written yesterday, except that I can't think of anyone now alive who could have written them in Tolstoy's probing, thought-provoking, unique manner. Har ...more
Alex Lopez
It may be that it is in the presence of death we realize we cannot save ourselves.

Whenever I first bought this book, the picture on the cover (Ivan Ilyich I presume) seemed to me to represent a man in anger, but after reading I can only see a man in fear and agony. So many people complain that a movie, or even an illustration ruins their perception of a good story, but good writing will change one's perception of a material reality.

Perception becomes everything as seen in the narrative. The doc
This is the first book I have read of Toltstoy, and I have to say I love it. I think his genius lies with describing the fullness of human experience in all its complexity. From the different stages and trials of love in Family Happiness, to realizing your life has been worthless in the coarse of your terminal illness and the redemption in finding God in death in The Death of Ivan Ilych, to lust of one partner and the subsequent deadly jealous rage of the other in Kreutzer Sonata, to the downfal ...more
The version I read included: Family Happiness, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, The Kreutzer Sonata, and The Devil. To put it very simplistically and in the order in which I appreciated the stories, Family Happiness is about love and relationships, Ivan Ilyich is about dying and selfishness, The Kreutzer Sonata is about jealousy and mistrust, and The Devil is about lust and desire. Most of these themes are found in most of the stories, however; it is simply a matter of emphasis.

Each story was, for me,
I read this collection in parallel with A Confession and Other Religious Writings. The change in style or at least underlying moral scope is evident in some of these works, compared with his two heavy novels earlier in his career. The two Caucasian tales "The Prisoner…" and "Hadji Murat" are both very detailed culturally and nearly documentary in detail, right down to the appended glossary of Caucasian terms. I didn't particularly enjoy these as I did the similar Gogol and Lermontov stories of t ...more
Justin Evans
There are obviously a lot of books called 'The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories.' The volume I read had Ivan, The Cossacks, and Happily Ever After (aka Family Happiness.) There's not too much to say- it seems that if you've read any Tolstoy, you know the general thrust; depressing, but with at least apparently uplifting endings in which characters come to do and feel the right thing. DII and Cossacks are both great (four stars each), but if I was going to read one, it'd be the Cossacks. HE ...more
Mark Crouch
Before diving into one of Tolstoy's bigger projects I wanted to check out some of his smaller works and I thought this was a good place to start. Hadji Murad kind of felt like what a mini War and Peace would be (I guess), with the way he seamlessly weaves these multiple stories together, and as quickly as he ends a characters' narrative he starts anew. The Death of Ivan Illych was probably the best story here and it also had the biggest affect on me. Tolstoy really knows how to get the reader in ...more
This is a record of my own thoughts of the book. I've not written it for someone to get a fair impression of the book.

Reading Happy Ever After, the first of three short stories in the collection, was a fantastic summary of the course of relationships. An intense period of emotions bubbling up unexpectedly into a flowering of passion. Then, the inevitable cooling that follows for most couples. Many reviewers here found the short story dark, pessimistic, and therefore they disliked it. In my own e
wow. subtle but not... and one of those books that became more cherished upon completion. conceptually, the full effect of this story did not consciously amalgamate until the last few pages - and even then, not completely until the last two words - rather like putting the lid on a jar, the contents within did not become contents until the lid was sealed. read a bit like jane austin meets dostoyevsky (weird combo, right?) but with more hope than most russian literature that i have been exposed to ...more
Farnoosh Brock
I read The Death of Ivan Illyich not only because it is the work of brilliant Leo Tolstoy, a genius whose every prose cuts through my heart, but also because Dr. Wayne Dyer once said that reading this book at 19 completely changed his thinking. As if that were not enough, I fondly remember how my mom read this book as part of an English class assignment in college; she went to college at the same time as me (I was so proud of her, by the way), and Tolstoy even had my mom talking about this book ...more
Tolstoy cracks me up. Sometimes his prose is so modern, so spot-on, so genius, so undoubtedly right, that I chuckle as I'm reading. I love when he writes things like, "Of course as soon as he left the room, they all began to talk about him. (This is paraphrased.)" Or even better, "Besides the reflections upon the changes and promotions in the service likely to ensue from this death, the very fact of the death of an intimate acquaintance excited in every one who heard of it, as such a fact always ...more
Brian Bess
The smaller Tolstoyan platforms

NOTE: This review is of the Richard Pevear/Larissa Volokhonsky translation.

One thing that Leo Tolstoy could never be accused of was being a minimalist. He is best known for the massive novel 'Anna Karenina' and the even more massive 'War and Peace'. Almost all of his fiction seems to be an attempt to pack in as much panoramic life as possible. This characteristic applies to his shorter pieces as well as his novels.

This new translation (2009) assembles his best know
The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Tolstoy 9/10

Described by the back of the book as "an intense and moving examination of death and the possibilities of redemption." It is certainly those things, though I found the redemption part a little less compelling, while the ruminations of the possibilities of redemption struck me as deeply moving. My favorite parts of the story, however, were passages where Tolstoy seems to capture these complex social interactions or thoughts or exchanges that on the one hand
Potter Wickware
“The Death of Ivan Illych” (1886) is a story of the unexamined life. Illych, a magistrate, followed the correct path professionally, cultivated the right people, always held himself within proper limits (as defined not by internal self-generated values but by the range of behavior seen in those in his professional class). He married and was happy for a time, until the children came, but then his wife became unsatisfied and shrewish. There was never quite enough money, even though Illych was care ...more
Jun 24, 2015 Ariel rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Serious Readers
Recommended to Ariel by: Brynden Anderson
I received this book of stories by Tolstoy for my birthday and I'm glad that I did! While I am slowly (like snail slow) reading War and Peace and upon reading this collection, I see a different side to the author as an artist and as a person. These stories range from autobiographical (even though we could argue that all writer's work is in some form autobiographical) and moral parables. This is a rather recent translation, published in 2009 by two translators who have successfully translated man ...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
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“Ivan Ilych's life had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible.” 90 likes
“In actuality, it was like the homes of all people who are not really rich but who want to look rich, and therefore end up looking like one another: it had damasks, ebony, plants, carpets, and bronzes, everything dark and gleaming—all the effects a certain class of people produce so as to look like people of a certain class. And his place looked so much like the others that it would never have been noticed, though it all seemed quite exceptional to him.” 13 likes
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