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Paperback The Death of Ivan Ilyich (Warbler Classics Annotated Edition) Book


ISBN13: 9781959891963

The Death of Ivan Ilyich (Warbler Classics Annotated Edition)

(Part of the De Kleine Russische Bibliotheek Series)

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Book Overview

The Death of Ivan Ilyich is a profound meditation on mortality and the meaning of a well-lived life. The novella delves into the existential crisis of a seemingly ordinary man, Ivan Ilyich Golovin, as he confronts his impending death. The narrative chronicles his pursuit of societal success and conventional happiness, which ultimately lead him to a life devoid of authenticity and meaning. As Ivan grapples with the excruciating pain of a terminal illness,...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

This book was so good, I bought a copy for each of my adult kids.

Tolstoy addressed a glorious issue in a very short story, comparatively speaking. His other works are much longer. He managed to illustrate the futility of a faithless life, lived for material wealth, status, and power. As Ivan lies dying he recalls his life, and it brought me to tears. I felt pity for him, and the opportunities he lost to share love with his family. A very moving book.

Great Collection

Leo Tolstoy is of course best known and most acclaimed for long novels but is also one of the great short fiction writers. This collection has four of his best short works: "Family Happiness," the title story, "The Kreutzer Sonata," and "Hadji Murád." This may not seem like much, but as one might expect, they are not really that short, ranging from sixty to 120+ pages for a total of more than 350 - a substantial percentage of Tolstoy's non-novelistic fiction. More importantly, all four stories are superb. Two ("The Death" and "The Kreutzer") are masterpieces comparable to Tolstoy's great novels, and the other two would be nearly any other writer's best. The selection is also interesting in ranging over Tolstoy's career. "Family" is one of his earliest works, published in 1959 after a short series of autobiographical novels began to make a name for him but before the great works that earned him fame. The other three stories came in the decades after his most famous works and, postdating his religious conversion and transition to mostly non-fiction, are almost his last fictional pieces and so good that we see the full extent of literature's loss when Tolstoy turned from it. The greatness of the stories ensures that anyone who likes classic literature must read them, but they are available in many editions, especially "The Death." Whether or not one will want this version depends on what translations one seeks and how much supplemental material one wants. "Family" and "The Death" are translated by Constance Garnett, the near-legendary translator responsible for first bringing most Russian classics into English. She remains perhaps Tolstoy's most widely read English translator, but some find her Victorian style off-putting. Much the same can be said of Alymer Maude, Tolstoy's chosen translator, whose "Hadji" is used, and the anonymous 1899 translation of "The Kreutzer." All these are widely considered accurate and readable, but those wanting more recent translations should probably look elsewhere. That said, editor David Goldfarb has updated the translations, making many changes for accuracy and consistency, achieving a sort of compromise that will satisfy nearly all. As with other Barnes & Noble Classics, supplemental material is also very strong. There is a long Introduction giving much background on Tolstoy and the stories plus some critical analysis; a handful of notes for each story; a short Tolstoy biography; a Tolstoy timeline; a description of works inspired by the stories; a list of comments and questions; further reading suggestions; and opening quotes. Some of this is superfluous, but much is of great value. It will surely satisfy everyone except those wanting more extensive notes; these list only biographical names not widely known and major translation issues. The binding is also very high quality and will last through much browsing. Then there are of course the stories. "Family" is notable in anticipating much of later Tolstoy wi

A Wonderful & Unique Tolstoy

'The Death of Ivan Ilych and Other Stories' by Leo Tolstoy All stories contained in this small volume are truly wonderful, however, I've chosen to focus on `Family Happiness' - the first short novel (or novella) in this issue - solely due to the fact that is unique amongst Tolstoy's writings. This narrative is written from the feminine perspective - a young girl named Masha's - which sets it apart from Tolstoy's unparalleled catalogue. It is a tale of love, the evolution of marriage and the stresses found in so many relationships. Masha marries an older man, twice her age and a guardian figure, who has thus far experienced what he considers to be all of his life adventures and by the beginning of the narrative is well settled into a staid and happy existence. After an awkward beginning to their marriage, Masha experiences a world completely new to her - cosmopolitan and society based - as opposed to the country life she had heretofore experienced. As her life experiences expand, the way she views her husband becomes altered and she struggles to understand how their love has changed and whether or not it can ever return to what it once was. Consequently, Masha must face the future with the man she has always loved and struggle to accept this new reality, recognizing the evolution of her life. Perhaps, Tolstoy's true feelings on marriage are on display in `Family Happiness'. The story evolved from his own relationship with a woman, significantly junior to he. However, Tolstoy did not marry her, and this story may demonstrate why. This is truly a wonderful novella that I'm sure you'll remember well after you turn the last page.


Prior to writing "The Death of Ivan Illych," Tolstoy had undergone a nearly overwhelming existential crisis, and here he lays it out with the black humor of a bemused undertaker. The result is an uncomfortably insightful work, both bleak and comical.

I wish I could read Russian... I could read this story in the original. This novella is an absolute masterpiece. It made me think about things my jaded self had long since given up on, like God, purpose of life, death, fear. Tolstoy has an absolute deadpan sense of humor, which was so subtle it took me a while to catch on (for example, Ivan's fatal injury occurs while he is hanging expensive drapery out to impress his friends--what a beautifully ironic, even funny way to point out the meaninglessness of his life?).If you're like me, and don't have the time to slog through "War and Peace" but are interested in Tolstoy, try this book. It's outstanding.
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