The brilliance of this story is in how a normal bureaucrat, a judge in this case, has a small accident that winds up gradually taking his life. As he deals with this incident, with hope at first and then despair, he comes to terms with his family, his life, and the mediocrities that we all suffer with, except for the exceptional few. This story rings a particularly poignant note for those in early middle age facing the next part of their lives. This story is considered Tolstoy's best.
Public Domain (P)2011 Christina Brown
Started out a little difficult to follow/slow, but picked up pace nicely. Narrator was ok. It's a great read for end of life as well as terminal illness. I came to this book after reading Being Mortal. I work in hospice and this is an interesting narrative on what end of life is like for my patients.
Si hoc legere scis nimium eruditionis habes.
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 story of the decent from vitality to denial to acceptance to embracing the finality of death. A short read but very moving look at one man's fight against the mortal coil. Another great book by Tolstoy.
Floral Design Instructor
I've listened to the “Death of Ivan Illyich” several times and every listen gives me a new prospective in the process of dying and death. Not just the dying of an individual, but the accurate feelings, needs and self protecting aspects of those around the dying. It’s marvelous how Leo Tolstoy taps into the truth of the human heart.
I'm open to any book as long as it is true to itself.
A story with a powerful message. Quite depressing, but well-written. Narration was good, very much in the style of Tolstoy.
So this was a Tolstoy...... Hmph, the story doesn't say much except to reiterate how difficult and painful death can be, both physically and emotionally. The story is way too short to establish empathy for Ivan Ilyich! He was a judge. A game of bridge was his favorite amusement. All his life he conformed to proper decorum, becoming with age aloof and irascible. What was the point of life - both he and the readers may ask?!
The narration by Walter Zimmerman was certainly not bad, but it didn't add anything.
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