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
I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.
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.
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...
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.
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.
See question above.
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.
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.
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.
IT Manager and life long learner
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This short story is a great wake-up call to all of us who are preparing to retire instead of preparing to die. I want to be ready when my time comes. Ivan Illyich gives me a glimpse of what it might look like to approach the reality of my mortality without a clue. I've listened to this book many times already and hear something insightfully new each time I re-listen.
Clear. Intelligible. Engaging. He sounds like he could be one of the charcters in this story.
Gerasim. While I know much about Ivan because he's the main character, I'd like to know more about this kind, guileless young man.
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