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The Death of Ivan Ilyich: (Large Print) Paperback – Large Print, 1 Oct 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 148 pages
  • Publisher:; large type edition edition (1 Oct. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1425008445
  • ISBN-13: 978-1425008444
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 0.9 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,268,274 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Count Leo Tolstoy was born in 1828 on the family estate of Yasnaya Polyana, in the Tula province, where he spent most of his early years, together with his several brothers. In 1844 he entered the University of Kazan to read Oriental Languages and later Law, but left before completing a degree. He spent the following years in a round of drinking, gambling and womanizing, until weary of his idle existence he joined an artillery regiment in the Caucasus in 1851.

He took part in the Crimean war and after the defence of Sevastopol wrote The Sevastopol Sketches (1855-6), which established his literary reputation. After leaving the army in 1856 Tolstoy spent some time mixing with the literati in St Petersburg before travelling abroad and then settling at Yasnaya Polyana, where he involved himself in the running of peasant schools and the emancipation of the serfs. His marriage to Sofya Andreyevna Behrs in 1862 marked the beginning of a period of contentment centred around family life; they had thirteen children. Tolstoy managed his vast estates, continued his educational projects, cared for his peasants and wrote both his great novels, War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877).

During the 1870s he underwent a spiritual crisis, the moral and religious ideas that had always dogged him coming to the fore. A Confession (1879-82) marked an outward change in his life and works; he became an extreme rationalist and moralist, and in a series of pamphlets written after 1880 he rejected church and state, indicted the demands of flesh, and denounced private property. His teachings earned him numerous followers in Russia and abroad, and also led finally to his excommunication by the Russian Holy Synod in 1901. In 1910 at the age of eighty-two he fled from home 'leaving this worldly life in order to live out my last days in peace and solitude'; dying some days later at the station master's house at Astapovo.

Product Description


"[This book] is usually regarded as an amazing narrative of the experience of dying, a search for the meaning of death. It is all that, and more: it's a great questioning of what is and what ought to be in a human life." --Nadine Gordimer --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Inside Flap

On learning of Ivan Ilyich’s sudden demise and death, his former colleagues begin vying for promotion; it seems neither in life nor in death has Ivan Ilyich made any lasting impression. And, as Tolstoy takes us back to Ivan Ilyich’s early days, it is a life of futility, of emptiness and primarily of spiritual barrenness that is revealed. Yet Tolstoy also reveals how, in the face of serious illness, Ivan Ilyich had made a final resolute gesture to come to terms with his mortality.

Presented here alongside The Devil, a further work exploring the powerful and destructive nature of obsession, The Death of Ivan Ilyich is one of the most exquisitely constructed novellas by the author of War and Peace. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 7 Jun. 2005
Format: Paperback
As Wittgenstein said 'Death is not an event in life'. In Tolstoy's narrative we see frequently how those still living are unsure of how to react in a genuine way to those dying, and instead fall back on their normal habits and approaches to life - one character early on won't let Ivan's death stop him from his evening routine of gambling. Ivan's widow is, between her sobs, concerned that she should get the maximum amount possible from the government to cover his funeral. It's touches like these which bring to mind Auden's 'Musee des beaux Arts', and also make the narrative ring as true as as it does. Another significant strand to the story is Ivan's relationship with his servant Gerasim, who cares for him as he approaches death. Gerasim is different from many other characters in that he is able to deal with the dying Ivan in a way that is not disgusted, patronising or false. He is the one character who is actually able to relate to him genuinely as he is dying. And this is one of Tolstoy's more didactic points that he sneaks into this narrative of dying, that he sees peasants as being more authentic than the aristocracy of which he was so much a part. But the didacticness never gets in the way of the story, as it arguably does in some of Tolstoy's longer works, and 'The Death of Ivan Ilyich' shows Tolstoy at his most concentratedly brilliant.
The translation of this Hesperus Press edition is excellent, and the story is also supplemented by 'The Devil', a story about an aristocrat falling in love/lust with a peasant girl, and its unhappy consequences. While it may not be quite 'The Death of Ivan Ilyich', 'The Devil' is still worth reading. Altogether, a very worthwhile buy.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By John Hopper TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 21 Sept. 2007
Format: Paperback
The thoughts and feelings of a man towards his family and those around him as he gets progressively more ill and is then dying from a wasting disease that sounds like cancer. The opening chapters are quite light-hearted with some ruefully amusing reflections on marriage and attitudes towards ones career, but then the mood becomes much darker and he ends being cynical about his family, seeing them as wishing his death to come sooner so they can be free of the burden of caring for him. A short story but one with a lot to say about the human condition and by no means necessarily tied to its Russian background.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Littrell TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 16 Jan. 2009
Format: Paperback
I've been reluctant for decades to read the great Russian master because I never felt I had the time to tackle War and Peace or Anna Karenina. I suspect others have felt the same way and thereby missed reading one of the truly great literary artists to have ever lived. Put it off no more. Pick up this 317-page splendid collection of some of Leo Tolstoy's best stories including the celebrated "The Death of Ivan Ilyich."
There are six other stories, the most significant of which is perhaps the sad "Polikushka" which is just about as long as "Ivan Ilyich" and to my mind a bit better in some respects. I also very much liked "The Raid" and "The Woodfelling" which are starkly realistic stories about soldiers engaged and not engaged in battle told wistfully without phony heroics or needless sensationalism. In fact, every story is not just excellent, but deeply engaging, cathartic and transcending as only great literature can be.

You don't have to read more than a few pages before you are struck with the sheer majesty of Tolstoy's gargantuan narrative style, his command of all aspects of storytelling from the kind of deep understanding of character that one finds in Shakespeare, to the kind of descriptive power about people and their environs that can only come from someone with a prodigious memory, a sharp eye and an unusual ability to concentrate. Somehow Tolstoy always knows what to leave in and what to leave out. He knows how to describe without slowing down the tale or making the reader aware of "purple passages." Everything flows like the great Don as naturally as breathing, but with a massive density of observation and experience, both intellectual and emotional, that frankly leaves this scribe in awe.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Timothy W. Dumble on 13 Oct. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I decided to read this novella after it was referenced in 'Affluenza'- a debt of gratitude to Oliver James. Having never read any of the works of the 'great' Russian authors before I found this work an ideal starting point.Like Dickens, Tolstoy (at least in this translation) communicates with great clarity and with insight into the human condition.

What renders this short work and the accompanying piece 'The Devil' so powerful is its incredible resonance with every reader.As we are all sentient, self aware beings we all face the trials of Ivan Ilyich -an inevitable death and a life in between which we hope to fashion in a manner which ultimately we feel,in the event of our own deaths fulfilled and worthwhile.

We also face the same struggle as Yevgeny Irtenyev (in 'The Devil') in constructing a moral framework by which to live our lives and to restrain our base instincts or live with the consequences of guilt.

In brilliantly depicting the costs of the sentience of our own mortality and struggles with personal conscience, Tolstoy emerges as a 19th Century existensialist.Indeed he suggests that there is no escape from the inner consciousness and consequently self realisation rather than religious epiphany lies at the core of happiness.The need to do what is right must come from within rather than be provided extrinsically by religion.

This edition is ably supported with effective notes, essays and bibliography.
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