Synopses & Reviews
The Death of Ivan Illych and Other Stories, by Elizabeth Gaskell, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics: All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences--biographical, historical, and literary--to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works. Chief among Tolstoy's shorter works is The Death of Ivan Ilych, a masterful meditation on the act of dying. The first major fictional work published by Tolstoy after a mid-life psychological crisis, this novella reflects the author's struggle to find meaning in life, a challenge Tolstoy resolved by developing a religious philosophy based on brotherly love, mutual support, and charity. These guiding principles are the dominant moral themes in The Death of Ivan Ilych, an account of the spiritual conversion of a judge--an ordinary, unthinking, vulgar man--in the face of his terrible fear about death.
Also included in this volume are Family Happiness, an early work that traces the arc of a marriage; The Kreutzer Sonata, a frank tale of sexual love that shocked readers when it first appeared; and Hadji Murad, Tolstoy's final masterpiece about power politics, intrigue, and colonial conquest.
David Goldfarb teaches Polish, Russian, and Comparative Literature at Barnard College and Columbia University. He has written about Witold Gombrowicz, Bruno Schulz, Zbigniew Herbert, Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, Mikhail Lermontov, and Nikolai Gogol.
Leo Tolstoy combined detailed physical description with perceptive psychological insight to sweep aside the sham of surface appearances and lay bare man’s intimate gestures, acts, and thoughts. Murder and sacrifice…greed and devotion…lust and affection…vanity and love—one by one, in this volume of great stories, Tolstoy dissects the basic drives, emotions, and motives of ordinary people searching for self-knowledge and spiritual perfection. Chekhov said, “Of authors my favorite is Tolstoy.” And Turgenev “marveled at the strength of his huge talent…It sends a cold shudder even down my back…He is a master, a master.”
Now with a new introduction by Regina Marler and an afterword by Hugh McLean.
About the Author
Count Leo Tolstoy
was born on September 9, 1828, in Yasnaya Polyana, Russia. Orphaned at nine, he was brought up by an elderly aunt and educated by French tutors until he matriculated at Kazan University in 1844. In 1847, he gave up his studies and, after several aimless years, volunteered for military duty in the army, serving as a junior officer in the Crimean War before retiring in 1857. In 1862, Tolstoy married Sophie Behrs, a marriage that was to become, for him, bitterly unhappy. His diary, started in 1847, was used for self-study and self-criticism; it served as the source from which he drew much of the material that appeared not only in his great novels War and Peace
(1869) and Anna Karenina
(1877), but also in his shorter works. Seeking religious justification for his life, Tolstoy evolved a new Christianity based upon his own interpretation of the Gospels. Yasnaya Polyana became a mecca for his many converts At the age of eighty-two, while away from home, the writer suffered a break down in his health in Astapovo, Riazan, and he died there on November 20, 1910.
Hugh McLean has published widely on Russian literature.
Regina Marler is the author of Bloomsbury Pie: The Making of the Bloomsbury Boom and editor of Selected Letters of Vanessa Bell. She also writes for the New York Times Book Review and the Los Angeles Times. Marler lives in San Francisco.