brian 's Reviews > The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories

The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories by Leo Tolstoy
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Nov 28, 09


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 more interesting.


which is why i'm hesitant to call out tolstoy as my favorite writer. same kinda shit, y'know? 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. yes. and i know it because when i popped into the book store and saw this gorgeous new hardback of tolstoy short stories by badass russian translators pevear & volokhonsky, well, it took all i had not to rub up against it in the store -- waited till i got in the car and dry-humped the shit outta this beautiful bitch.


so listen: this is a must buy. great writer. great translators. great looking edition (masturbating & find my eye wandering from the freeze-framed of rosario dawson or marisa tomei to the tolstoy section of my bookshelf where, next to all my penguin softback tolstoy short story collections, my hardback P & V translated editions of war & peace, anna karenina, & ivan ilyich and other stories sit. of course, in order to prolong the experience i've gotta think back to when kowalski exposed himself in my car -- the visual equivalent of a cold shower). and a great selection of stories.


A GREAT selection of stories. shitty when they release a newly translated collection of a great writer's stories and leave out the greatest hits. well, they're all here, kids: ivan ilyich (love me do) is just terrific if slightly overrated. the kreutzer sonata (happiness is a warm gun)? fucking great! master and man (blackbird)? i cry. the devil (i'm a loser)? amazing! hadji murat (a day in the life)? fucking genius! they're ALL great.

trust me, booknerds.
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Comments (showing 1-25 of 25) (25 new)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (last edited Nov 25, 2009 12:58PM) (new)

You are one sick motherfucker.

(Dostoevsky's better and, ergo, more nutworthy, by the way.)

'Fuckin' City of Angels!'

(you meet someone and they tell you that The Beatles are their favorite band and you kinda hate 'em, yeah? I kinda hate people who like The Beatles, period.)


message 2: by brian (last edited Nov 25, 2009 01:02PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

brian   ah... tolstoy/dusty arguments are boring...
'having said that...'
dusty was always my man, but in recent years i've been digging on leo. dusty is more nutworthy, yes, but mebbe that's why i'm more appreciative of ol' leo: he starts us off in a relatively normal place and slowly slides us down into hell. dusty starts us down there in the fiery pits and-- ah, what the fuck am i saying? they're both beasts.

'fuckin city of angels!'


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

'having said that...'

Russia has the Wonder Twin powers of both Tolstoy and Dostoevsky in their national literary canon. (Not to mention Chekhov and Gogol.) What nation can possibly compete?

None, I dare say.


message 4: by Stephen (new)

Stephen I'm listening to Anna Karenina right now in the car, and you're right, Leo builds his story with Oblonsky and a passing reference to his sister Anna coming to visit, then Levin, and we're already ten chapters into the book! Marvelous. But you are both right. I say apples and oranges. Each is magnificent.


brian   if this edition is available on CD, stephen, PICK IT UP! i can't imagine listening to anna karenina on CD (too long, too involved), but the short stories are perfect. do it!


message 6: by Stephen (new)

Stephen It is on CD, and I'm using it when I drive because long drives suck without a book. I like the reader too, she has the knack and the names down perfectly. I really want to read the short stories, is jizz required?


message 7: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited Nov 25, 2009 02:26PM) (new)

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio Having said that...


message 8: by Stephen (new)

Stephen You all left out Alexander Pushkin


message 9: by Christan (new) - added it

Christan No one can top the Russian Masters - no one. As far as the Beatles go, they are my favorite band...along with about a hundred others. Anyone who says they "hate" the Beatles is cutting off their singing nose to spite their humming face. I too have sipped the wine of youth and self-importance. Eventually that glass goes from half full, to half empty, to nothing at all. But the irony is that we never realize that until it happens.


message 10: by Nick (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nick Black i don't know genet :(


Daniel Anyone who doesn't tear up a little bit each time they hear "In My Life" is a fucking robot.

Also, I totally need to get this book. I haven't read the title story since high school.


message 12: by Erik (new) - rated it 5 stars

Erik Simon Brian: Ever read Hadji Murad? Novella, one of the last things Tolstoy wrote. Simply brilliant.


Tatiana This new translation just came out, right? I tried to buy it on Amazon a week ago and they almost substituted a different translation on me before I caught it and canceled. These are some of my favorite Tolstoy stories. Is Family Happiness in there too? I like Dostoyevsky best but Tolstoy is really great too. I think he has suffered in my esteem due to poor translations in the past. I wish I could just read Russian.


message 14: by Jen (new)

Jen Me too. My mom was taught Russian in high school, but I was sent to a Classical school where we were taught how to defend why we were learning Latin. Balls.


message 15: by Bram (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bram Good god do you have great taste.

But how the hell did I completely miss the release of a new Tolstoy P&V translation??




message 16: by Erik (new) - rated it 5 stars

Erik Simon Well what's the point of having the name Tatiana if you can't translate Russian?


message 17: by Christan (new) - added it

Christan Tatiana,

Dostoevsky is a favorite of mine. Get your hands on the Pevear and Volokhonsky translations of his works - they are the purest translations from Russian to English. If you are interested in the man himself, check out the newly abridged biography (5 volumes essenced into 1) by Joseph Frank. It is a truly amazing journey inside the mind of this complicated genius. Pevear and Volokhonsky have also translated Gogol and Chekhov. Far superior to the old Constance Garnett translations.






Conrad Great review; Hadji Murat is definitely the "Dig a Pony" of Tolstoy novellas.


Tatiana Christian, I just bought the P&V translations of C&P, The Idiot, and The Brothers Karamazov. Also got my mom the P&V translation of Anna Karenina. I'll check out that biography of Fyodor Mikailovich that you reccommend. I'm also kind of interested in the memoir written by his widow Anna, bless her, who must have put up with an awful lot to bring us his work. Have you read it? Without her, I suppose, he would never have found a way in his crazy life to write his later masterpieces. He might have been a footnote instead of a founding father of western literature.

How paradoxical and right that someone who was multiply afflicted by epilepsy, by compulsive gambling, and by who knows what else, was the one to show us most clearly what it means truly to be a member of our depraved and divine human species!


message 21: by Christan (new) - added it

Christan Tatiana,

Anna was an amazing woman. Fyodor wasn't the easiest man to live with, and he was driven by his inner visions and demons. Oftentimes they lived in abject poverty due to his gambling debts. Without her tireless promotion of his legacy, he would have been forgotten. I have not read her memoir, but thanks to you, I am now interested in doing so.

And so true about the paradoxical nature of human beings. We are flesh and blood. We hunger, we thirst, we love, and we hate, all with equal passion. Our minds can live in the clouds, but our feet are firmly rooted in the earth.




Tatiana I found one on Amazon here, but it's $30 and I told myself I'd rather read books than books-about-books and there are still a lot of great books I haven't read yet. I'm torn. If you do read it, let me know what you think. I read a few pages and it seems very interesting.


message 23: by Christan (new) - added it

Christan I followed your link on Amazon, and the book does look quite interesting. I may take the plunge and get it. If so, I'll give you a full report. If you read the new(er) P&V translation of The Idiot, I would be interested to know what you think. The Joseph Frank abridged biography is outstanding. Please take the time to check it out.

So many books, so little time!


message 24: by Sequoyah (new) - added it

Sequoyah Snaketail I can relate.


message 25: by Mariel (new)

Mariel I've known so many people who have never heard of Tolstoy or The Beatles that the obvious choice thing became nulled.


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