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The Death of Ivan Ilyichby Leo Tolstoy
Synopses & Reviews
In the large building housing the Law Courts, during a recess in the Melvinsky proceedings, members of the court and the public prosecutor met in the office of Ivan Egorovich Shebek, where the conversation turned on the celebrated Krasov case. Fyodor Vasilyevich vehemently denied that it was subject to their jurisdiction, Ivan Egorovich clung to his own view, while Pyotr Ivanovich, who had taken no part in the dispute from the outset, glanced through a copy of the News that had just been delivered.
"Gentlemen " he said. "Ivan Ilyich is dead."
"Here, read this," he said to Fyodor Vasilyevich, handing him the fresh issue, still smelling of printer's ink.
Framed in black was the following announcement: "With profound sorrow Praskovya Fyodorovna Golovina informs relatives and acquaintances that her beloved husband, Ivan Ilyich Golovin, Member of the Court of Justice, passed away on the 4th of February, 1882. The funeral will be held on Friday at one o'clock."
Ivan Ilyich had been a colleague of the gentlemen assembled here and they had all been fond of him. He had been ill for some weeks and his disease was said to be incurable. His post had been kept open for him, but it had been speculated that in the event of his death Alekseev might be appointed to his place and either Vinnikov or Shtabel succeed Alekseev. And so the first thought that occurred to each of the gentlemen in this office, learning of Ivan Ilyich's death, was what effect it would have on their own transfers and promotions or those of their acquaintances.
"Now I'm sure to get Shtabel's post or Vinnikov's," thought Fyodor Vasilyevich. "It was promised to me long ago, and the promotion will mean an increase of eight hundred rubles in salary plus an allowance for office expenses."
"I must put in a request to have my brother-in-law transferred from Kaluga," thought Pyotr Ivanovich. "My wife will be very happy. Now she won't be able to say I never do anything for her family."
"I had a feeling he'd never get over it," said Pyotr Ivanovich. "Sad."
"What, exactly, was the matter with him?"
"The doctors couldn't decide. That is, they decided, but in different ways. When I last saw him, I thought he would recover."
"And I haven't been there since the holidays. I kept meaning to go."
"Was he a man of any means?"
"His wife has a little something, I think, but nothing much."
"Well, there's no question but that we'll have to go and see her. They live so terribly far away."
"From you, that is. From your place, everything's far away."
"You see, he just can't forgive me for living on the other side of the river," said Pyotr Ivanovich, smiling at Shebek. And with that they began talking about relative distances in town and went back to the courtroom.
In addition to the speculations aroused in each man's mind about the transfers and likely job changes this death might occasion, the very fact of the death of a close acquaintance evoked in them all the usual feeling of relief that it was someone else, not they, who had died.
"Well, isn't that s
Ivan Ilych, a peaceful public official in the Russian provinces, has his life permanently changed by a serious illness which no doctor can accurately diagnose. Hailed as one of the world's supreme masterpieces on the subject of death and dying, The Death of Ivan Ilyich is the story of a worldly careerist, a high court judge who has never...
Hailed as one of the world's supreme masterpieces on the subject of death and dying, The Death of Ivan Ilyich is the story of a worldly careerist, a high court judge who has never given the inevitability of his death so much as a passing thought. But one day death announces itself to him, and to his shocked surprise he is brought face to face with his own mortality. How, Tolstoy asks, does an unreflective man confront his one and only moment of truth?
This short novel was the artistic culmination of a profound spiritual crisis in Tolstoy's life, a nine-year period following the publication of Anna Karenina during which he wrote not a word of fiction. A thoroughly absorbing and, at times, terrifying glimpse into the abyss of death, it is also a strong testament to the possibility of finding spiritual salvation.
About the Author
Count Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy displayed an extraordinary duality of character in a life filled with deep contradictions. He was born to an artistocratic Russian family on Sept. 9, 1828. His parents died when he was young, and he was raised by several female relatives. In 1844 he entered the University of Kazan, remaining there only three years. At the age of 23, Tolstoy joined the Russian Army and fought in the Crimean War. While still in the service, his first published story appeared, a largely autobiographical work called Childhood (1852). Tolstoy returned to his estate in 1861 and and established a school for peasant children there. In 1862, he married Sofia Behrs and gradually abandoned his involvement with the school. The next fifteen years he devoted to managing the estate, raising his and Sofia's large family, and writing his two major works, War and Peace (1865-67) and Anna Karenina (1875-77). During the latter part of this fifteen-year period, Tolstoy found himself growing increasingly disenchanted with the teachings of the Russian Orthodox Church. In the ensuing years, Tolstoy formulated for himself a new Christian ideal, the central creed of which involved nonresistance to evil; he also preached against the corrupt evil of the Russian state, of the need for ending all violence, and of the moral perfectibility of man. He continued to write voluminously, primarily nonfiction, but also other works, such as The Death of Ivan Ilyich (1886). In 1910, still unable to reconcile the differences in the lives led by the aristocracy and the simpler existence he craved, Tolstoy left the estate. He soon fell ill and was found dead on a cot in a remote railway station. He was buried on his estate at Yasnaya Pulyana.?
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