The Death of Ivan Ilyich

A Leo Tolstoy Short Story
Narrated by: Bill DeWees
Length: 2 hrs and 10 mins
4 out of 5 stars (434 ratings)

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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
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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.

16 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

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.

3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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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.

3 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

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.

2 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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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.

5 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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I spent five minutes motionless after it finished.

Everyone should read this book at least once in their lifetime. I just hope I don't feel the same way when I go.

1 person found this helpful

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Answer: Die and pay taxes.

Where does The Death of Ivan Ilyich rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

The best.

What did you like best about this story?

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.

What about Bill DeWees’s performance did you like?

Clear. Intelligible. Engaging. He sounds like he could be one of the charcters in this story.

If you could take any character from The Death of Ivan Ilyich out to dinner, who would it be and why?

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.

1 person found this helpful

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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 person found this helpful

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Insightful

Needless to say, regrets of the dying come to mind. Gerasim, a servant, without question is an instrumental pivot point for awareness on what truly matters in life, serving others with a warm heart. One encountering such a person as Gerasim will be forever touched by compassion. An infectious disease, if one were to contract it before death arrives, would soon strive to spread this heartwarming affliction to everyone possible.

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the reader was horrible

I enjoyed the story but had a difficult time with the reader and did not seem to connect to the characters due to the reader, if the book was much longer I would have quit listening.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Silja
  • 03-22-14

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 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • MakeBake
  • 05-02-14

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!