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The Death of Ivan Ilyich

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  72,915 ratings  ·  3,938 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, ...more
ebook, 54 pages
Published January 13th 2016 by Leo Tolstoy (first published 1886)
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Ashley Tolstoy has been translated into every major language including English.
Maureen Spengel Oh, yes. I think that is a key aspect of this novella; that despite the sheer indifference within life, it is We, with the power to love and show…moreOh, yes. I think that is a key aspect of this novella; that despite the sheer indifference within life, it is We, with the power to love and show kindness that create meaning and beauty in life, as well as in the lives of those close to us. The selfless servant is an embodiment of this quiet virtue. (less)
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May 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Luís C.
The Death of Ivan Ilych, written in 1886, was the first major fictional work published by Tolstoy during his post-conversion. Tolstoy's religious philosophy which illustrates the values of brotherly love, Christian charity, and mutual support are the frameworks for the writing of this novel. Just as Tolstoy's discovery of the true meaning of life led him to fulfillment and an acceptance of death, Ivan Ilych's awakening comes through the realization of death which ignites within him fear, anger, ...more
Petal X
Socrates said that an unexamined life was not worth living. In Kafka's The Metamorphosis poor Gregor Samsa is transformed into a being that cannot take part in the daily round of society and becomes more and more sidelined and ignored by those around him. This book, the Death of Ivan Ilych, has both of these notions contained within it's theme.

Ivan Ilyich is dying. As he grows sicker and fits in less with his fairweather friends and family and their preoccupations with their social lives, they l
Mar 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those not afraid to know

Today I turned the last page of Banville’s Eclipse and was literally hit by the profundity of a book that surreptitiously echoes the mastery of the classic tragedies. My pupils dilated until they watered when I bumped into this paragraph:

“As a boy I knew the stars, and loved to speak their names over to myself, in celestial litany, Venus, Betelgeuse, Aldebaran, the Bears, great and lesser. How I loved the coldness of those lights, their purity, their remoteness from us and all we do and all that
Fabian {Councillor}
It is a widespread stereotype that Russian classics are mostly long, tedious, boring, a burden to get through, but one only needs to read a short book like The Death of Ivan Ilych in order to be proven wrong. A philosophical, in its beautiful writing almost lyrical account of a dying man's life, Tolstoy will make you think about your own mortality, about happiness, sorrow and most likely your own life as well.

“They had supper and went away, and Ivan Ilych was left alone with the consciousness
Last year the group catching up on classics chose The Death of Ivan Ilyich as one of their monthly short story selections. At the time, I did not have the time to read it; however, a play I recently read had reading Anna Karenina as a major plot line. Wanting an introduction to Tolstoy prior to reading this epic, I decided upon Ivan Ilyich as my gateway to his more celebrated work.

Ivan Ilyich enjoyed an upper middle class life in pre revolutionary Russia. He graduated from a jurisprudence cours
Ahmad Sharabiani
829. Смерть Ивана Ильича = Smert Ivana Ilicha = The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Leo Tolstoy
The Death of Ivan Ilyich (Russian: Смерть Ивана Ильича), first published in 1886, is a novella by Leo Tolstoy, considered one of the masterpieces of his late fiction, written shortly after his religious conversion of the late 1870s. Usually classed among the best examples of the novella, The Death of Ivan Ilyich tells the story of a high-court judge and his sufferings and death from a terminal illness in 19th-ce
Nov 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
"Ivan Ilych's life had been most ordinary and therefore most terrible..."

This arresting line is a synopsis of what all of this boils down to. More than likely, in my pre-Emo high school years, had I read all 52 grueling pages of "The Death of Ivan Ilych", and truly understood its exquisite prolonged lingering around the very morbid notion of death, it would have been a brick in my fo(und/rm)ation. Sadly, nowadays I am way more bubbly and optimistic than ever, so I had a healthy distance between
Jan 30, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
J.L.   Sutton
Apr 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In Leo Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilych, awareness of his impending death compels Ilych to think about whether his life had meaning. He reviews his career, family and the passions which guided his life, all the decisions which led him to where he found himself. Even as he knows death is closing in on him, Ilych rejects the possibility that he will die, and only slowly comes to accept his fate. I remember reading this many years ago and it had stuck with me. The story Ilych tells himself was ful ...more
If you are bothered by your own mortality then consider yourself forewarned. It's not just the thought of dying much too young, just when you have gained a level of accomplishment, but also to die in agony, slowly. I've seen it much to close in my life, and to read such a vivid account was difficult. The power of writing, of good writing, can take you many places, even places you don't want to go.
“Can it be that I have not lived as one ought?"
The Death of Ivan Ilyich Leo Tolstoy


The Death of Ivan Ilyich is one of the greatest tales of redemption and forgiveness I have ever read. What Tolstoy accomplished in the last 10 pages of this novella was amazing.

Tolstoy is at his best writing about the social interactions of human beings. He has such an amazing feel for the things that go on between people; the hypocrisy, the pretending, the way people lie to each other on a daily basis. And he d
Jul 17, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just as David Allen Coe sang the perfect Country and Western song, so might this be the perfect Russian short story / novella.

Tolstoy has all the pertinent Russian elements: death, misery, estrangement, corrupt aristocracy, worthless professional class, strong and noble peasantry metaphorically and actually carrying the rich on their backs, guilt and a moment of clarity before the end.

Jan 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
Jun 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Any human being
Shelves: favorites, russian
I read this novella a couple of weeks ago and I did not 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 n ...more
The story of The Death of Ivan Ilych profoundly touches on the concepts of life and death. Although I have come across books that talks deeply of life, I cannot say the same about death. And this book quite compensated for that omission.

Tolstoy, through the fictitious character of Ivan Ilych, exposes the concept of death and human feelings when they are confronted with death. Ivan Ilych, a judge, leads an active professional life, and performs his social duty well. He is also a husband and a
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Death is nothing but joy and a light. It is not the cusp or a kind of pain, but a beginning and a start. Many ways, it is the actually the end of fear and pain...

"In place of death, there was light."

"So that's what it is!" he suddenly exclaimed aloud. "What joy!"

"Death is finished," he said to himself. "It is no more!".

The Death of Ivan Ilych is a beautiful (yes, Death is beautiful) book written by Leo Tolstoy. It is indeed, as quoted in the blurb, a supreme masterpiece on the subject of death a
May 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My very first Tolstoy. Oh, of course I know of this titan of literature and of course I know one of his most important works, Anna Karenina. However, I had actually considered reading his work(s) in their original language so I started learning Russian back when I had a bit more spare time ... only I got derailed and still am not on a level that would allow me to read such works in Russian. However, a friend persuaded me to at least read a short story of his, even if it is a translated version a ...more
Mar 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: classics, philosophy, allegory
Shelves: classics
I've always liked Tolstoy's writing style, as he can describe something simply and clearly. Even the heavy topic of death, he managed to narrate it from the point of view of the actual dead, Ivan Ilych, who experianced it through it's multiple stages. It's wonderful, simple, sad and eye opening. Recommended.
May 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: june-read, classics
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
When it comes to a simple theme, it can't get much better than this. Death? Meet Ivan Ilych.

But what Tolstoy brings to the table is an outline of his life, his propriety, his career, and his failings as a husband and father (though he would never call it such) and the realization that he, perforce, must die.

Enter pain, existential horror, and bafflement.

Very Russian. Very universal. And extremely well-written.

And for the man who wrote War and Peace? SO SHORT! :)
Dec 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
For those scared of the size of Tolstoy's stellar works like 'War and Peace' and 'Anna Karenina', this novella may be a good starting point as an introduction to the art of Tolstoy. Set in imperial Russia at a time when every aspiring person seemed to measure their success through their rank or office in the Russian civil service, it is an excellent critique of the elite's aspirations, the suffocating formality of their lifestyles, of their being beholden to positions and job titles.

At the same
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

Steven Godin
Aug 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Profound and masterly. A short glimpse into Tolstoy's genius, on that age old problem we all face up to, death. Uncomplicated with a clear prose, the story is of Ivan Ilyich, a married judge with two children, who dies before his time (mid 40's) after much suffering, reflection, and self-recrimination, and after considerable indictment by Tolstoy. Ilyich is self-satisfied, shallow, dull, and cold hearted, in short, unlikable, and Tolstoy presents him with no stylistic flourishes. In stern, spare ...more
Alice Poon
Jun 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics

I had expected this novella to be all dark and depressing. But it turned out to be dark with a silver lining. Through telling a story about the life of a Russian judge, who falls ill at the height of his career and life accomplishment, Tolstoy leads the reader into the inner struggles of the protagonist as he is confronted with the threat of death. The writing is simple and calm but has an intimacy and immediacy about it that it rattles one's nerves and fibers. The questions raised about life an
Viv JM
The Death of Ivan Ilyich is quite a sombre and depressing read about the last few weeks of a man's life. He looks back and wonders if he has lived a good enough life. Tolstoy portrays dying as a very lonely business. One of the most touching passages for me was this one:

...the most tormenting thing for Ivan Ilyich was that no one pitied him as he wanted to be pitied: there were moments, after prolonged suffering, when Ivan Ilyich wanted most of all, however embarrassed he would have been to admi
I do seem to recall reading this story now that I know I did and I remember enjoying the story. I like Tolstoy. I remember loving this class.
Stephen P
Jun 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novella, favorites
Tolstoy faces us square, eye to eye, with death, with life; real life versus false life. We are put there as no other writer has done. Absenting dense complex prose he allows the story to carry its full weight and tell itself. Tolstoy wastes no time nor a word in bringing to bold life Ivan Ilych’s journey from the safety of a conventional life to facing what that life sought to hide from. By hiding from death it also hid from life. He glazes a mirror and polishes the clarity of its sheen. It ref ...more
The deal with Ivan Ilyich is, he doesn't question his existence even though he knows he's dying. He's not even expecting his suffering to have some meaning. He's neither pessimistic nor optimistic, he just asks, Why? Just Why? Why me? He does know he's just another mortal animal, but the realization of truth is just weird. Like he's seriously about to die. How often does that happen to a person? Death of Ivan Ilyich talks plainly and explicitly about just one thing—death. This book might just be ...more
Mar 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
"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
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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
“Can it be that I have not lived as one ought?" suddenly came into his head. "But how not so, when I've done everything as it should be done?” 142 likes
“Morning or night, Friday or Sunday, made no difference, everything was the same: the gnawing, excruciating, incessant pain; that awareness of life irrevocably passing but not yet gone; that dreadful, loathsome death, the only reality, relentlessly closing in on him; and that same endless lie. What did days, weeks, or hours matter?” 90 likes
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