The novella begins a few moments after Ivan Ilyich dies. A number of people have gathered to mark his passing: judges, family members and acquaintances. However, these people cannot understand death, because they cannot really believe that they will ever die. They only praise God that the dying men is not him, and then start considering how his death might be to their advantage them in terms of money or position.
The novella then takes us back thirty years. We see Ivan in the prime of his life. He is the middle child and lives a life of studied mediocrity. He studies law and becomes a judge. Along the way, he completely expels all personal emotions from his life. He does his work objectively and coldly. He becomes a strict disciplinarian and father figure (that the Russian head of the household ought to be).
He is also a jealous and pole-climbing sort of man. He is intensely happy when he gets a job in the city, where he can buy and decorate a large house. While decorating, he falls and hits his side. Although he does not know it at the time, this injury will facilitate the illness that eventually kills him. He becomes bad tempered and bitter--he refuses to come to terms with his own death. Through his final illness, Gerasim (a peasant)stays beside the his bed and becomes his friend and confidant.
Only Gerasim can understand Ivan's problems. The rest of his family either think that he is a malingerer or a bitter old man. But, Gerasim offers kindness and honesty. Ivan begins to look at his life with fresh eyes. He realizes that the more successful he became, the less happy he was. He also wonders whether he has done things that were right. He had been living his life on auto-pilot: doing and saying everything that was expected of him.
He agonizes over this, unable to break away from his belief that the kind of man he became was the kind of man he should have been. Then he sees a bright, white light. He begins to feel sorry for all those around him, realizing that they are still too involved in the life that he has left to understand that it is artificial and ephemeral. He dies in a moment of exquisite happiness.
The plot of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas is essentially simple: Three men set out to capture and explain the unexplainable. Instead they are captured and encounter a brilliant madman who travels the seas seeking revenge and beauty. The men cannot continue in such a manner, so they risk their lives to free themselves.
A good portion of this novel is mere entertainment. Verne spends paragraphs explaining geography and marine life. These descriptions do little to advance the plot except when characterization is revealed through their observation. The amazing thing of this and indeed all of his novels is Verne's ability to fortell inventions that had yet to be made. Electricity for power, the scuba tank, and the submarine were not to make their appearance for many years after the novel was published in 1870.
The pioneering submarine designer Simon Lake credited his inspiration to Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,and his autobiography begins "Jules Verne was in a sense the director-general of my life." William Beebe, Sir Ernest Shackleton, and Robert Ballard found similar early inspiration in the novel, and Jacques Cousteau called it his "shipboard bible".
The aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont named Verne as his favorite author and the inspiration for his own elaborate flying machines. Igor Sikorsky often quoted Verne and cited his Robur the Conqueror as the inspiration for his invention of the first successful helicopter.
The rocketry innovators Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Robert Goddard, and Hermann Oberth are all known to have taken their inspiration from Verne's From the Earth to the Moon.Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William Anders, the astronauts on the Apollo 8 mission, were similarly inspired, with Borman commenting "In a very real sense, Jules Verne is one of the pioneers of the space age".
Polar explorer Richard E. Byrd, after a flight to the South Pole, paid tribute to Verne's polar novels The Adventures of Captain Hatteras and An Antarctic Mystery by saying "It was Jules Verne who launched me on this trip."
The preeminent speleologist Édouard-Alfred Martel noted in several of his scientific reports that his interest in caves was sparked by Verne's Mathias Sandorf. Another influential speleologist, Norbert Casteret, traced his love of "caverns, abysses and underground rivers" to his avid youthful reading of Journey to the Center of the Earth, calling it "a marvelous book, which impressed and fascinated me more than any other", and adding "I sometimes re-read it still, each time finding anew the joys and enthusiasm of my childhood".
The French general Hubert Lyautey took much inspiration from the explorations in Verne's novels. When one of his more ambitious foreign projects was met with the reply "All this, sir, it's like doing a Jules Verne", Lyautey famously responded: "Yes, sir, it's like doing a Jules Verne, because for twenty years, the people who move forward have been doing a Jules Verne."
Other scientific figures known to have been influenced by Verne include Fridtjof Nansen, Wernher von Braun, Guglielmo Marconi, and Yuri Gagarin.
The real genius of this work, besides its incessant entertainment, lies in its ability to present technological advancement as the potential demise of man. This is an unnerving subject for the 19th century world which was riding high on the effects of the spreading Industrial Revolution.
The writing and character development is amazing. You start reading and find that you simply cannot put it down. I listen to the audiobook and read it on my Kindle after work a second time and enjoy it just as much. Not many books can do that.
Jon Snow the Bastard of Winterfell. Though he was always unfortunate in his birth and despised by his father's wife, he still took all the ills afforded one of his station and came to be as honourable as his sire.
Ian McKellen's talent as a narrator is astounding. His cadence and inflections are sublime. The only complaint I have is the 3 seconds of electronic organ noise separating the books. This is one of the few books that I could listen to over and over.
Not often does one find a book that is not only intelligently written, but thought-provoking, educational, and quotable. This is one of those rare convergences, where, contained within is everything we love about books. It is so many different genres flawlessly rolled into something extraordinary. I believe this is destined to become a new favourite novel by a gifted writer. This is a masterpiece. The narrator is absolutely incredible. Well done to both gentlemen.
Stacy Keach, who I am proud to say I've met when he was playing Ken on "Titus" is an amiable and talented individual. Reading Hemingway, he is absolutely superb. My kids were fascinated by the stories and absorbed by Mr. Keach's telling of it. Truly sublime.
Hemingway's novel about Europe before WWII transcends time. It is at times profound, abhorrent, absurd and transcendent. Though it does cross the generations well for the story, the language and feeling of the book are rooted in a time long expired. I've heard Stacy Keach read Hemingway and it was, in a word, sublime. John Hurt, on the other hand and in my opinion, really detracts from everything Hemingway was trying to say. It is monotonous and boring even though the story is compelling. And as a Scot, I have to say that it was undoubtedly, the worse Scottish accent I've ever heard. He sounded more like a drunk Russian. So best of luck if you purchase this audiobook, I, myself, feel like I've been robbed.
This was most assuredly the worst episode I've ever listen too. Tom Baker Is and shall always be my favourite doctor. Tom Baker's wonderful voice and skill could not save this piece. Full frontal nudity and free cash couldn't save it. Too violent for children, to stupid for adults. Buy at your own risk.
This is an excellent book not only for we like-minded nudists but also for textiles, the curious, and even the families who are puzzled as to why Mum and Dad don't share their photos of Jamaica....
The author/ narrator may sound a bit stodgy to some. To me, he sounded like a wise and treasured grandfather who with that wonderfully dry British humour and wit really brought the books rich character to life. A highly recommended read. In fact, I'm buying copies for friends.
This is John Mortimer's beloved character's quintessence. The case Horace Rumpole did ( alone and without a leader) that was his shining star. Quite humourous at points and always intelligent, this is one of the best books in my collection.
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