Tolstoy's novella offers a penetrating examination of the Christian faith and the nature of life and death. Listeners will also be sure to delight in Tolstoy's sharp and sometimes satirical eye for the very modern-sounding details of the life of a nineteenth-century Russian bureaucrat. With masterful ease, a warm tone, and conversational pacing, British actor Oliver Davies captures Ivan Ilyich's preoccupation with interior decorating and debt and his avoidance of family weddings and home remedies. Then the shadow of death wipes away all trivialities and pretense. This work's prose and performance are so vivid, so human, and so listenable that there's no doubt why Tolstoy stands as one of the giants of world literature.
The subject of this well-known Tolstoy novella is a high court judge in St. Petersburg who lives a carefree life. One day, without warning, he is beset by pains and soon has to come to terms with the fact that he is going to die. The judge has to learn to face death without fear and yet feel compassion for the family he is leaving behind.
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"Davies' skill with inflection, even within words, heightens the social satire of the early section and shifts with Ilyich's slide into ever increasing pain and irritability." (Publishers Weekly)
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"The best 'Death'"
The death of Prince Andre in War and Peace and the death of Levin's brother in Anna Karenina are among the most memorable scenes depicting death in world literature. But in this short novella Tolstoy surpasses his earlier achievements in the unflinching portrayal of the death of a self-satisfied public official. Satire on the inauthenticity of most ordinary existence is joined with acute psychological insight into the effect that death has both on the dying person and on those around him.
I remember the overwhelming impact reading Tolstoy's story had when I first read it as an adolescent many years ago. Now from a very different perspective this superb reading by Oliver Ford Davies is no less powerful : throughout he judges the tone and variety of Tolstoy's writing with great intelligence and insight and has the dramatic ability to convey the author's insight into both major and minor characters. Such a reading provides effectively constant illumination into the text and the total effect is most moving. There are a number of readings of this work but I am sure this is the one to have. Strongly recommended.
I can only hope that Naxos will employ Oliver Ford Davies to read Master and Man,Hadji Murat, the Kreutzer Sonata,etc.
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