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Books Read in 2017-2018 > The Death of Ivan Ilych - Non-Spoilers

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message 1: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 5977 comments Mod
Please use this thread for first impressions (non-spoilers), background and general information.


message 2: by Rosemarie (new)

Rosemarie | 1551 comments I will be reading this book later in the month.


message 3: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 5977 comments Mod
I've read this one already but will join in the discussions. 😊


Bryan--The Bee’s Knees (theindefatigablebertmcguinn) | 409 comments Like everyone else, I've got a ton of things going on in December, but I'd like to try and shoehorn this in--I started this several years back but I didn't finish for some reason. I've got the collection of Tolstoy's stories translated by Pevear and Volokhonsky--if I can't get to all the stories, I'm hoping to at least get to this one.


message 6: by Marina (new)

Marina (sonnenbarke) | 563 comments Loretta wrote: "I've read this one already but will join in the discussions. 😊"

Same here.


message 7: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 5977 comments Mod
Bryan wrote: "Like everyone else, I've got a ton of things going on in December, but I'd like to try and shoehorn this in--I started this several years back but I didn't finish for some reason. I've got the coll..."

It's a short enough book Bryan so I'm sure you'll be able to fit it in. I look forward to your comments. 😊


message 8: by Piyangie (new)

Piyangie | 623 comments I will be reading the book mid month.


message 9: by Matt (new)

Matt (mmullerm) I also plan to read with the group, but more toward the middle to end of the month . Glad it came as a group read!


message 10: by Loretta, Moderator (new)

Loretta | 5977 comments Mod
I'm glad to see that some members will be reading this book and for us who have already read it, happy that we'll join in the discussions! 😊


message 11: by Rosemarie (new)

Rosemarie | 1551 comments I have just finished this book. Tolstoy packs a lot of substance in this little novel about the meaning of life and death.


message 12: by Piyangie (new)

Piyangie | 623 comments I finished reading this. This is an amazing little book which talks of life and death at a deeper level. This is really a thought provoking book. This book helped me to view Tolstoy in a new light. I'm really glad to have read it.


message 13: by Savita (new)

Savita Singh | 584 comments After reading the comments by Rosemarie and Piyangie , I would like to add this book to my TBR shelf . Tolstoy impressed me in Anna Karenina . His view about life and death would be worth reading .


message 14: by MJD (new)

MJD | 372 comments Piyangie wrote: "I finished reading this. This is an amazing little book which talks of life and death at a deeper level. This is really a thought provoking book. This book helped me to view Tolstoy in a new light...."

Have you read Notes from Underground and/or The Dream of a Ridiculous Man by Fyodor Dostoyevsky? They are both short Russian works from around the same time as this book and deal with the meaning (or lack thereof) of life. I found them both very interesting and I think that their themes might interest you as well.


message 15: by Piyangie (new)

Piyangie | 623 comments Savita wrote: "After reading the comments by Rosemarie and Piyangie , I would like to add this book to my TBR shelf . Tolstoy impressed me in Anna Karenina . His view about life and death would be worth reading ."

Everything about this book is quite different to Anna Karenina, Savita. I feel Tolstoy was quite a changed man when he wrote this. His religious conversion changed his perspective. I hope you'll enjoy it.


message 16: by Piyangie (new)

Piyangie | 623 comments MJD wrote: "Have you read Notes from Underground and/or The Dream of a Ridiculous Man by Fyodor Dostoyevsky? They are both short Russian works from around the same time as this book and deal with the meaning (or lack thereof) of life. I found them both very interesting and I think that their themes might interest you as well. .."

No, I haven't read them. Thank you for your recommendation, MJD. Notes from Underground is already in my TBR for next year. I'll check out the other book as well.


message 17: by MJD (new)

MJD | 372 comments Piyangie wrote: "Savita wrote: "After reading the comments by Rosemarie and Piyangie , I would like to add this book to my TBR shelf . Tolstoy impressed me in Anna Karenina . His view about life and death would be ..."

He did seem to have gone through a dark night of the soul and emerged a changed man before he wrote this book. To get a sense of where he was before he wrote this book you could read A Confession. He is very open about his state of mind, like in the following part:


"I grew sick of life; some irresistible force was leading me to
somehow get rid of it. It was not that I wanted to kill myself. The
force that was leading me away from life was more powerful, more absolute, more all-encompassing than any desire. With all my strength I struggled to get away from life. The thought of suicide came to me as naturally then as the thought of improving life had come to me before. This thought was such a temptation that I had to use cunning against myself in order not to go through with it too hastily. I did not want to be in a hurry only because I wanted to use all my strength to untangle my thoughts. If I could not get them untangled, I told myself, I could always go ahead with it. And there I was, a fortunate man, carrying a rope from my room, where I was alone every night as I undressed, so that I would not hang myself from the beam between the closets. And I quit going hunting with a gun, so that I would not be too easily tempted to rid myself of life. I myself did not know what I wanted. I was afraid of life, I struggled to get rid of it, and yet I hoped for something from it."


message 18: by Piyangie (new)

Piyangie | 623 comments MJD wrote: "Piyangie wrote: "Savita wrote: "After reading the comments by Rosemarie and Piyangie , I would like to add this book to my TBR shelf . Tolstoy impressed me in Anna Karenina . His view about life an..."

Oh my god, MJD, I cried reading this quote. I really want to read the book now.


message 19: by Piyangie (new)

Piyangie | 623 comments MJD wrote: "Piyangie wrote: "Savita wrote: "After reading the comments by Rosemarie and Piyangie , I would like to add this book to my TBR shelf . Tolstoy impressed me in Anna Karenina . His view about life an..."

Oh my god, MJD, this quote made me cry. I so want to read this book. Added to my TBR.


message 20: by Savita (new)

Savita Singh | 584 comments Piyangie wrote: "Savita wrote: "After reading the comments by Rosemarie and Piyangie , I would like to add this book to my TBR shelf . Tolstoy impressed me in Anna Karenina . His view about life and death would be ..."
I wonder , MJD and Piyangie , whether a book like Anna Karenina ( with the profound wisdom that it imparts through the course of events in the lives of Anna and Kitty ) was written before or after A Confession ? In A Karenina , Tolstoy is so clear about the discipline and etiquette life requires us to follow , n the consequences of our deeds n decisions . The author could not have been unaware of the meaning / importance of life in the journey of the soul , at the time of writing A Karenina . MJD's quote is very startling , n if A Karenina was written at a later date , it would show a triumph of his sensitive , enquiring mind . Did Tolstoy have a natural death eventually , MJD , would you know ? It is unfortunate to leave life's examination hall prematurely , when so much depends on staying on the right course up to the exit gate .


message 21: by Piyangie (new)

Piyangie | 623 comments Anna Karenina was written before A Confession. I believe Tolstoy went through the transition of thought after writing his much revered work Anna Karenina and War & Peace. I'm sure Tolstoy was a constant seeker of true meaning of life and he was not quite satisfied with righteous living as described in Anna Karenina (I haven't read War and Peace yet) I'm sure MJD can enlighten more on this point. And make you mind easy Savita; Tolstoy did die a natural death.


message 22: by Savita (new)

Savita Singh | 584 comments Thank you for your comment , Piyangie . It would be better to read A Confession before The Death of Ivan Ilyich , I suppose , to know more about L.Tolstoy .


message 23: by MJD (new)

MJD | 372 comments Piyangie wrote: "Anna Karenina was written before A Confession. I believe Tolstoy went through the transition of thought after writing his much revered work Anna Karenina and War & Peace. I'm sure Tolstoy was a con..."

He does seem to have been dissatisfied with what he had wrote, with his existential crisis arising in part from seeing himself as a phony. As he stated in A Confession: " I naively imagined that I was a poet and an artist, that I could teach all men without myself knowing what I was teaching."

While his crisis in general seems to follow the same format as someone like the Buddha, coming to see one's wealth and status as ultimately empty, this idea of being a phony seems to have added an extra layer to his crisis.


message 24: by MJD (new)

MJD | 372 comments MJD wrote: "Piyangie wrote: "Anna Karenina was written before A Confession. I believe Tolstoy went through the transition of thought after writing his much revered work Anna Karenina and War & Peace. I'm sure ..."

By reference to the Buddha I mean the classic spiritual journey archetype that his story seems to embody, which Tolstoy seems to have followed in “A Confession.” I think that this journey can be summarized by four generalized stages as follows:

Stage 1: Become disillusioned with conventional answers to the question of how to live (pursuing wealth, status, etc.).
Stage 2: Become a wanderer, seeking out various alternative answers to how to live.
Stage 3: Become enlightened, coming to a realization of the true answer.
Stage 4: Become a teacher, showing others the true path.

Tolstoy’s autobiographical work seems to fall in line with the four stage spiritual journey outlined above, but - as I stated in an above comment – he sees himself as becoming a teacher prematurely before even stage one. This idea of becoming a phony teacher seems to have added additional distress along the journey (besides the usual distress that just comes from becoming disillusioned with previously held answers).


message 25: by Savita (new)

Savita Singh | 584 comments Read MJD's comment with interest . It's only after reading A Confession and The Death of Ivan Ilych , will L.Tolstoy's concluding thoughts become clear , I suppose . It's a bit disappointing , however , to know the phase L.Tolstoy went through after writing a book like A Karenina .


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