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The Death of Ivan Ilyich: A Leo Tolstoy Short Story | [Leo Tolstoy]

The Death of Ivan Ilyich: A Leo Tolstoy Short Story

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (80 )
5 star
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4.0 (70 )
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3.7 (71 )
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2 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 03-05-13
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 03-05-13 Member Since 2002

    I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great Book, Great Price, Good Narration"

    This is a late Tolstoy novella (perhaps his best short) examining one life facing death. The narration is good (not great) and does not get in the way of the text at all. The writing is excellent among the best you will ever read. The story is dark, quite non-religious, and largely existentialist, thus some may find it too depressing. Others may find in the story a powerful illustration of the primary lesson of life; If you waste it, you will regret it. It does this without being the tiniest bit preachy, moralistic, or predictable. At two bucks one of the best values on Audible. If you haven't read any Tolstoy, this is the place to start.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Virginia United States 01-12-12
    Virginia United States 01-12-12
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    "A masterpiece"

    Leo Tolstoy is one of the greatest writers of all times ... this book is very unique ... through a smiple but incridably well written story all the questions of life, death, right and wrong are raised and challanged...

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Beth Elkins Park, PA, United States 09-24-11
    Beth Elkins Park, PA, United States 09-24-11 Member Since 2011
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    "Narrator is AWFUL"

    The narration of this one has NO affect. It was so bad that I downloaded it on my nook so I could read instead of listen. I will never download a book narrated by this guy again.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chrissie Brussels, Belgium 06-26-14
    Chrissie Brussels, Belgium 06-26-14 Member Since 2011
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    "Uninteresting"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joe HOOVER, AL, United States 03-04-14
    Joe HOOVER, AL, United States 03-04-14 Member Since 2013
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    "The Egotist Looks At A Mirror"
    What did you like best about The Death of Ivan Ilyich? What did you like least?

    Ironically, the answer to both questions is Ivan's conversion at the end of his life. The humanity of facing ones death is an inevitability for all and our vision of Ivan is a window into that psychology. For 99.99%+ of the population, we can only truly understand the death experience when we die. I only give nominal deference to those who have "experienced" being brain dead but have been revived. Even still, they did not die completely. Tolstoy's attempt is ambitious but it rings plausible enough for a honest rendering of my own end (several decades from now, I hope). What most disappointed me was the ending which described a conversion that was anything besides a factual existence. Ivan began his long path of terminal diagnosis in a state of disbelief. How could he be dying since he lived so well? But in the end, his pain goes away only when he accepted that he lived selfishly. This realization perpetuates the mythology that our sufferings are directly proportional to our "goodness". At one point, all the people around Ivan, including the doctors, accept the inevitable because Ivan's ailments are beyond their reach and understanding - why cannot man accept that the world in all of its glory and good things is made for their sole benefit? This ego-centrism is frustrating to witness first hand but perhaps can be somewhat forgiven as this was written in the 1886 when religion was still a principle source of scientific knowledge.


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    See question above.


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Bill DeWees?

    I'm keeping my 2-star rating but it's probably unfair. I DID feel the performance was a bit mechanical but so was the writing. Still, I can not offer an alternate narrator.


    Do you think The Death of Ivan Ilyich needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    No, this book is not open ended and nor should it be. This book is intended to efface self-reflection regarding death and I think it's sufficiently accomplished.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Septimus MacGhilleglas Steornabhagh, Na h-Eileanan an Iar 07-17-13
    Septimus MacGhilleglas Steornabhagh, Na h-Eileanan an Iar 07-17-13 Member Since 2008

    Si hoc legere scis nimium eruditionis habes.

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    "A Russian story with a (somewhat) happy ending."
    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sam Motes Tampa 04-04-13
    Sam Motes Tampa 04-04-13 Member Since 2011

    Audible obsessed lifelong learner.

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    "Embracing death"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jennifer MIAMI, FL, United States 03-19-13
    Jennifer MIAMI, FL, United States 03-19-13 Member Since 2013
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    "The narrator almost makes listening impossible..."
    Would you try another book from Leo Tolstoy and/or Bill DeWees?

    The only saving grace for this Audio book is the story itself. Bill DeWees is awful and lifeless. For a period of time I thought it was a computer generated voice and then realized it was a person. I struggled to listen to this lifeless narration.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Holly Money-Collins San Francisco, CA 02-05-13
    Holly Money-Collins San Francisco, CA 02-05-13 Member Since 2012

    Floral Design Instructor

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    "Made Me Think and Sometimes Shutter"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Florida 12-11-12
    Amazon Customer Florida 12-11-12
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    "There's no better way to spend $2 and 2 hours."
    What did you love best about The Death of Ivan Ilyich?

    If you like stories that make you reflect and give you some insight on life, you'll love this one. And it is under 2 hours and $2... honestly, what better way to spend your time and money? This book is great food for thought in an economic little package.


    What does Bill DeWees bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    DeWees doesn't stand in the way of this book with his narration. A lot of narrators, to me, do too much dramatization/interpretation of their own. I love that DeWees's delivery isn't flat/boring, but he just reads it simply and directly, not adding too much personal flair to it. Really helped me to get into the story in my own head.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 12 results PREVIOUS12NEXT
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  • Silja
    Cala Dor, Spain
    3/22/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Read with an American accent"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    The story is ok, not fantastic. But what irritated me most was the strong American accent of the narrator. And here especially the way he pronounced the name of the main protagonist Ivan. Spoiled it for me.


    Who might you have cast as narrator instead of Bill DeWees?

    anyone


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • BigBaby
    Portsmouth UK
    5/2/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "The life story of Ivan."
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    No. The story is not really as per synopsis. I expected more of how feeling the hand of mortality affects an individual. Nevertheless, the listener can be drawn into the characters of this story, so in fairness I've given it some stars.


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    It just tells of Ivan's career, marriage, family, marital problems, onset of illness and ends with his death and his wife's reactions in bereavement. That is everyone's story, nothing unusual and without interesting insights.


    Could you see The Death of Ivan Ilyich being made into a movie or a TV series? Who would the stars be?

    Just a plot line for a soap.


    Any additional comments?

    Full names, narrated every time each character is mentioned. Ivan is never called just Ivan, always his full name, same for everyone else. This was very tedious, confusing and unnecessary as lends nothing to the story for such great effort. Bill DeWees is tongue-twisting very similar sounding surnames throughout, awful!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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