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The Death of Ivan Ilych And Other Stories

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4.10  ·  Rating details ·  11,010 ratings  ·  637 reviews
With an Introduction and Notes by Dr T.C.B.Cook

Count Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) is best known for War and Peace and Anna Karenina, commonly regarded as amongst the greatest novels ever written. He also, however, wrote many masterly short stories, and this volume contains four of the longest and best in distinguished translations that have stood the test of time. In the early
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Paperback, 304 pages
Published April 1st 2003 by Signet Classics (first published 1895)
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brian
Nov 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Sumati
Jan 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
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Nick
What a great collection of Tolstoy’s shorter fiction. Here are my star ratings for each story/novella:

The prisoner of the Caucasus - 5
The diary of a madman - 3.5
The death of Ivan Ilyich - 5
The Kreutzer sonata - 5
The devil - 4
Master and man - 4.5
Father Sergius - 5
After the ball - 3.5
The forged coupon - 3
Alyosha the pot - 3
Hadji Murat - 5

I thought Father Sergius was the best, followed closely by Hadji Murat and Ivan Ilyich.
Viv JM
My edition of “The Death of Ivan Ilych and Other Stories” was the Vintage book, translated by Pevear and Volhokonsky. It contains the following stories:

The Death of Ivan Ilych
The Prisoner of the Caucasus
The Diary of a Madman
The Kreutzer Sonata
The Devil
Master and Man
Father Sergius
After the Ball
The Forged Coupon
Alyosha the Pot
Hadji Murat
(those that are underlined, I have reviewed separately – follow the link for the review)

There are some definite repeated themes - namely sex, death and religious
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Scriptor Ignotus
I have something to say, which, for lovers of literature, might be borderline blasphemous. I read Tolstoy, and…and

He’s okay.

Just okay. He didn’t rock my world. He didn’t change my life. His prose is good, but not magnificent; his characters are relatable, but not unforgettable; his stories are interesting, but not quite compelling. I didn’t come away from these stories convinced, as so many are, that Tolstoy is the greatest writer who ever lived. In fact, of the four great Russian writers I
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Michael
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
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Bryan
Fantastic collection of stories, including The Death of Ivan Ilyich, The Kreutzer Sonata, and Hadji Murat among others. 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.
leynes
Jul 15, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Laura
Aug 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russian
The stories in this collection are:

Family Happiness (1859)
The Death of Ivan Ilyich (1886)
The Kreutzer Sonata (1889)
Master and Man (1895)
Robert
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In writing "Family Happiness," "The Death of Ivan Ilych," "The Kreutzer Sonata," and "Hadji Murad," not to mention War and Peace, etc., Tolstoy deployed and displayed his tremendous intellect, aesthetic gifts, and his peculiarly dispassionate but hard-hitting moral anger: a definite attitude toward the failings of man and human institutions like marriage, war, and imperial rule.

"Family Happiness" revolves around an older family friend falling in love with an orphaned girl who has just attained
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Sachin Piya
Jan 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
"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
Charles
Feb 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
This contains 4 of Tolstoy's short stories, although all four are relatively long tales. I found them all a bit slow for my tastes but there is some very good stuff here that hits pretty hard. The first story is "Family Happiness," about a love affair developing between a young woman just coming of age and a considerably older man. It details the build up of passion in the relationship that then matures into a more long-term emotional bond. I found it quite good, although longer than necessary. ...more
Dan
Oct 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russian
I'm not a typically a fan of short stories, but this collection is unbelievable. Each story covers one or two topics central to life, society, and death. I can't help but think that stories like these gave way to the idea that fiction is better at conveying truth than any nonfiction possibly could.

The first story is Family Happiness. It concerns romantic, passionate love and its passing nature, and how unhappiness is driven by our internal wants and losing sight of what brought happiness to
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Justin Evans
Dec 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
It's nice to be reminded every now and then that moralization can be used to make great literature, since our literature is so dominated by the idea that moralizing is always a flaw. Tolstoy appears to have been a natural at moralizing.

Others will not doubt disagree, but I'm willing to argue that the best stories here are precisely those in which the moral of the story (or morality of the author) comes through most clearly: Ivan Ilyich, of course, but also The Kreutzer Sonata, The Devil, Master
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Elizabeth
Sep 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: russia, fiction
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
Tam Sothonprapakonn
May 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russian
Tolstoy keeps it so damn real. He tells it as it is. He describes life and death in such an excellent way that hasn't been done by any other writers that I've read before. He talks about love with both warm intimacy and brutal honesty, and not just romantic love, but also the love for God (I really like his particular ideal of Christianity, even though I myself am of no religion.), for goodness (His stories are like moral teachings.), and for fellow humans (He reminds us this again and again in ...more
Tatiana
Jul 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics
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, ...more
Esther Pyle
Jan 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Each story is brilliant in its own way, but I would definitely recommend reading each story separately and not reading them one after another. I found that when I previously read the Kreutzer sonata I loved it because I could get into Tolstoy's story and philosophy completely whereas this time round I already had much to think on from the previous stories.
I think each story says so much about human nature, relationships and who we are that to do them justice they need to be read individually.
Madelyn
Oct 31, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-but-good
rather drab plot, but excellent style.
J.M. Hushour
Shockingly not-good. Tolstoy's shorter works suffer from the utter lack of subtlety and nuance that make W&P and AK so memorable and beautiful. Indeed: most of the stories collected here are so severe and preachy that the reader might be excused for thinking he'd happened into some sort of bizarre seminary lecture. Wealthy and noble characters "fall" and get spiritual repeatedly. That's the dominating theme. People are oversexed and should abstain. Fiction should be artless and message-ful, ...more
Gordon Jonas
Oct 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jennie
Dec 17, 2007 rated it really liked it
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.
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Simon Robs
Jan 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
These stories conjure Tolstoy's both demons and beatitudes as shadow characters in his own grappled existence; his struggle large and small, low and high. They are men in mostly manly situations in life's conflicting roles and expectation. Men who control and lose it and find it again through absolution and giving over. Men who kill and are killed but live directly. Life is ever weighed according to ultimate meaning. Tolstoy can't laugh at life even when it confounds him and plays him a fool and ...more
Shelley
Aug 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Hemingway fans
"Ivan Ilyich", "Master and Man", and "Hadji Murat" are clearly the masterpieces in this collection of novellas and short stories. Terse, vigorous, they brim with the veracity of life. "Hadji Murat", as the American critic Harold Bloom points out, is basically Homer meets Hemingway and a blueprint for For Whom the Bell Tolls. Mmm.

"The Kreutzer Sonato" and "The Devil", on the other hand, showcase Tolstoy's bizarre misogyny. "Father Sergius" and "The Forged Coupon" are supposed to have some kind of
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Chris Fazio
Sep 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Steven
[I'll write a proper review when I have the time.]
Flamure Mehmeti
Oct 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Tolstoy with his views about human relationships, especially those matrimonial ones, fascinates me! He reflects at the core of human nature. Lust, being at the heart of man's emotional turbulence and misery!
Lisa
Dec 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thought provoking and poignant.
James
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
Rade
Jan 23, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tolstoy is one of those authors who you either love with a passion or hate with all your might. His stories are often bleak with a dark and often satirical look at life and all its goodness. I read an article that explained how Tolstoy used to have such emotional fluctuations that often translated to his books/stories. From being vegetarian and making his wife cook two dinners every day, to making her breastfeed all 13 kids even though it caused her pain (wet nurses were quite common in Russia ...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 ...more
“Ivan Ilych's life had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible.” 111 likes
“but that what was for him the greatest and most cruel injustice appeared to others a quite ordinary occurrence.” 19 likes
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