WEFOUNDThe Death of Ivan Ilych and Other Stories (Family Happiness, The Kreutzer Sonata and Master and Man)


Why The Death of Ivan Ilyich? Initially, because every recommended reading list pushed on me by teachers included Anna Karenina, which was long, whereas The Death of Ivan Ilyich was short. Why not check off Tolstoy in a sitting? The death part didn't sound enticing, but the author, supposedly, was an essential Dead White Guy if I was to hobnob impressively, someday, with fellow adults. Ivan Ilyich looked like the opposite of War and Peace (which is literally 25 times longer), and my crisp, quick ticket to at least a modicum of Tolstoyan literacy, provided I could endure the subject matter for an hour or two, after which I would go back to life as a teenager.

The subject matter, it turned out, wasn't complicated, and neither was the prose. Ivan Ilyich, a judge, married, with two children, dies at the age of 45 after much suffering, reflection, and self-recrimination, and after considerable indictment by Tolstoy.

Ivan Ilyich is self-satisfied, opportunistic, shallow, grasping, dull, cold - in short, despicable - and Tolstoy presents him with no stylistic flourishes. In stern, spare, ironic tones, he prompts us to look closely and in condemnation at this man, and then, gradually and with gathering force, he induces not just our sympathy but our identification with him.

During an interval in the Melvinski trial in the large building of the Law Courts the members and public prosecutor met in Ivan Egorovich Shebek's private room, where the conversation turned on the celebrated Krasovski case. Fedor Vasilievich warmly maintained that it was not subject to their jurisdiction, Ivan Egorovich maintained the contrary, while Peter Ivanovich, not having entered into the discussion at the start, took no part in it but looked through the Gazette which had just been handed in.

"Here, read it yourself," replied Peter Ivanovich, handing Fedor Vasilievich the paper still damp from the press. Surrounded by a black border were the words: "Praskovya Fedorovna Golovina, with profound sorrow, informs relatives and friends of the demise of her beloved husband Ivan Ilych Golovin, Member of the Court of Justice, which occurred on February the 4th of this year 1882. the funeral will take place on Friday at one o'clock in the afternoon."

Ivan Ilych had been a colleague of the gentlemen present and was liked by them all. He had been ill for some weeks with an illness said to be incurable. His post had been kept open for him, but there had been conjectures that in case of his death Alexeev might receive his appointment, and that either Vinnikov or Shtabel would succeed Alexeev. So on receiving the news of Ivan Ilych's death the first thought of each of the gentlemen in that private room was of the changes and promotions it might occasion among themselves or their acquaintances.

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Why The Death of Ivan Ilyich? Initially, because every recommended reading list pushed on me by teachers included Anna Karenina, which was long, whereas The Death of Ivan Ilyich was short. Why not check off Tolstoy in a sitting? The death part didn't sound enticing, but the author, supposedly, was an essential Dead White Guy if I was to hobnob impressively, someday, with fellow adults. Ivan Ilyich looked like the opposite of War and Peace (which is literally 25 times longer), and my crisp, quick ticket to at least a modicum of Tolstoyan literacy, provided I could endure the subject matter for an hour or two, after which I would go back to life as a teenager.

The subject matter, it turned out, wasn't complicated, and neither was the prose. Ivan Ilyich, a judge, married, with two children, dies at the age of 45 after much suffering, reflection, and self-recrimination, and after considerable indictment by Tolstoy.

Ivan Ilyich is self-satisfied, opportunistic, shallow, grasping, dull, cold - in short, despicable - and Tolstoy presents him with no stylistic flourishes. In stern, spare, ironic tones, he prompts us to look closely and in condemnation at this man, and then, gradually and with gathering force, he induces not just our sympathy but our identification with him.

During an interval in the Melvinski trial in the large building of the Law Courts the members and public prosecutor met in Ivan Egorovich Shebek's private room, where the conversation turned on the celebrated Krasovski case. Fedor Vasilievich warmly maintained that it was not subject to their jurisdiction, Ivan Egorovich maintained the contrary, while Peter Ivanovich, not having entered into the discussion at the start, took no part in it but looked through the Gazette which had just been handed in.

"Here, read it yourself," replied Peter Ivanovich, handing Fedor Vasilievich the paper still damp from the press. Surrounded by a black border were the words: "Praskovya Fedorovna Golovina, with profound sorrow, informs relatives and friends of the demise of her beloved husband Ivan Ilych Golovin, Member of the Court of Justice, which occurred on February the 4th of this year 1882. the funeral will take place on Friday at one o'clock in the afternoon."

Ivan Ilych had been a colleague of the gentlemen present and was liked by them all. He had been ill for some weeks with an illness said to be incurable. His post had been kept open for him, but there had been conjectures that in case of his death Alexeev might receive his appointment, and that either Vinnikov or Shtabel would succeed Alexeev. So on receiving the news of Ivan Ilych's death the first thought of each of the gentlemen in that private room was of the changes and promotions it might occasion among themselves or their acquaintances.

Why The Death of Ivan Ilyich? Initially, because every recommended reading list pushed on me by teachers included Anna Karenina, which was long, whereas The Death of Ivan Ilyich was short. Why not check off Tolstoy in a sitting? The death part didn't sound enticing, but the author, supposedly, was an essential Dead White Guy if I was to hobnob impressively, someday, with fellow adults. Ivan Ilyich looked like the opposite of War and Peace (which is literally 25 times longer), and my crisp, quick ticket to at least a modicum of Tolstoyan literacy, provided I could endure the subject matter for an hour or two, after which I would go back to life as a teenager.

The subject matter, it turned out, wasn't complicated, and neither was the prose. Ivan Ilyich, a judge, married, with two children, dies at the age of 45 after much suffering, reflection, and self-recrimination, and after considerable indictment by Tolstoy.

Ivan Ilyich is self-satisfied, opportunistic, shallow, grasping, dull, cold - in short, despicable - and Tolstoy presents him with no stylistic flourishes. In stern, spare, ironic tones, he prompts us to look closely and in condemnation at this man, and then, gradually and with gathering force, he induces not just our sympathy but our identification with him.


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