Sunday, 27 June 2010

The Death of Ivan Ilyich

Title: The Death of Ivan Ilyich

Author: Leo Tolstoy

Number of pages: 106

Started: 26 June 2010

Finished: 27 June 2010

Opening words:

In the large Law Court building, during an adjournment of the Melvinsky trial, the members of the bench and the Public Prosecutor had come together in the office of Ivan Yegorovich Shebek, and the conversation touched on the celebrated Krasovsky case. Fyodor Vasilyevich argued vehemently that it was beyond their jurisdiction, Ivan Yegorovich had his own view and was sticking to it, while Pyotr Ivanovich, who had kept out of the discussion at the outset and was still not contributing, was perusing a copy of The Gazette which had just been delivered.

‘Gentlemen!’ he said. ‘Ivan Ilyich is dead.’

‘Is he really?’

‘Here you are. Read it yourself,’ he said to Fyodor Vasilyevich, handing him the paper, fresh off the press and still smelling.

There was an announcement within a black border: ‘It is with profound sorrow that Praskovya Fyodorovna Golovina informs family and friends that her beloved husband, Ivan Ilyich Golovin, Member of the Court of Justice, passed away on the 4th of February this year, 1882. The funeral will take place on Friday at 1 p.m.’

Read a longer extract here.

Plot summary:

Ivan Ilyich is wasting away. He lies alone, dosed up on opium and deceived by doctors, haunted by memories and regrets. His friends come to see him, their faces masks of concern. His faithful servant tends to his every need. But as he forces down false remedies and listens to empty promises, Ivan grows aware of one terrible truth.

His wife and his children are not awaiting his recovery.

They are waiting for him to die ...

What I thought:

This was a very readable book. It started in good humour, but took on more sober tones. It was ultimately a book about death, as the title suggests, but was not depressing – it was more of a reflection on life, and a way of seeing our place in it.

This book is well worth a read, and at just over 100 pages, you can say that you have read a Tolstoy book in under two hours. Let this book see if it can tempt you to read some of his rather longer tomes.


Sarah said...

I love War and Peace, but it is huge undertaking each time, and Anna Karenina is too hard (though I intend to try again, just not now.)

This sounds like a great way to get one's annual dose of Tolstoy!

I have a pronounced liking for Russian writing, above almost every other nationality. Is it a favourite of yours, too?

Random Reflections said...

Sarah - sorry, I just realised I didn't reply to this.

This is definitely a very readable, and short, Tolstoy.

I do like Russian writing, I feel as though I have a very limited experience of it hough and perhaps need to venture further into the Russian world.