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The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories (Penguin Classics) Paperback – May 27, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0140449617 ISBN-10: 0140449612

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (May 27, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140449612
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140449617
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #373,463 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Count Leo Tolstoy was born in 1828 at Yasnaya Polyana, in the Tula province, and educated privately. He studied Oriental languages and law at the University of Kazan, then led a life of pleasure until 1851 when he joined an artillery regiment in the Caucasus. He took part in the Crimean War and after the defence of Sebastopol he wrote The Sebastopol Sketches (1855-6), which established his reputation. After a period in St Petersburg and abroad, where he studied educational methods for use in his school for peasant children in Yasnaya Polyana, he married Sofya Andreyevna Behrs in 1862. The next fifteen years was a period of great happiness; they had thirteen children, and Tolstoy managed his vast estates in the Volga Steppes, continued his educational projects, cared for his peasants and wrote War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877). A Confession (1879-82) marked a spiritual crisis in his life; he became an extreme moralist and in a series of pamphlets after 1880 expressed his rejection of state and church, indictment of the weaknesses of the flesh and denunciation of private property. His teaching earned him numerous followers at home and abroad, but also much opposition, and in 1901 he was excommuincated by the Russian Holy Synod. He died in 1910, in the course of a dramamtic flight from home, at the small railway station of Astapovo.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Israel Drazin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 28, 2009
Format: Paperback
Both Leo Tolstoy and many literary experts consider this 1886 tale The Death of Ivan Ilych "one of Tolstoy's best stories."
It is impossible to fully evaluate the success of a person's life until the person is dead. Thus, The Death of Ivan Ilych is really an examination of an only outwardly successful life. This examination, performed by one of the world's greatest writer, sensitizes readers to the values and vanities of their own lives. Tolstoy tells his tale indirectly; we understand what happens to Ivan by seeing how people act toward him and by seeing how he acts, without Tolstoy needing to explain matters to us.
At the outset, we sense how Ivan's wife reacted to his death when we read that she asked one of Ivan's friends, before the funeral, how she could increase her pension now that he was dead. We understand about Ivan's friendships when we read how his friends wanted to play cards rather than attend his wake. Those who thought about his death at all were more concerned about what his death tells them about their own mortality than about Ivan.
Then Tolstoy shows Ivan's life, his apparent joys, difficulties, behaviors, his advancements in his jobs and his final illness.
We learn how Ivan was affected by the deterioration of his marriage by reading what he did inside and outside his home. We read about all the troubles Ivan took to decorate his home when he became successful and acquired a higher salary. He was very proud. Yet: "In reality it was just what is usually seen in the houses of people of moderate means who want to appear rich, and therefore succeed only in resembling others like themselves." In reality, despite his efforts, despite his pride, his house was like the others, in no way exceptional.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Catherine Wilson on January 7, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I need the specific other stories for my Tolstoy class, and while the title says it has "The Raid" and "Woodfelling," the version that was delivered to me has "The Cossacks" and "Family Happiness." This is beyond frustrating--I just wasted 5 dollars and won't have my reading done for class tomorrow.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Littrell HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 16, 2009
Format: Paperback
[Note: Nearly a hundred of my fiction reviews by great literary artists and others not so well known are now available in my book, "Novels and other Fictions." Get it at Amazon.]

I've been reluctant for decades to read the great Russian master because I never felt I had the time to tackle War and Peace or Anna Karenina. I suspect others have felt the same way and thereby missed reading one of the truly great literary artists to have ever lived. Put it off no more. Pick up this 317-page splendid collection of some of Leo Tolstoy's best stories including the celebrated "The Death of Ivan Ilyich."

There are six other stories, the most significant of which is perhaps the sad "Polikushka" which is just about as long as "Ivan Ilyich" and to my mind a bit better in some respects. I also very much liked "The Raid" and "The Woodfelling" which are starkly realistic stories about soldiers engaged and not engaged in battle told wistfully without phony heroics or needless sensationalism. In fact, every story is not just excellent, but deeply engaging, cathartic and transcending as only great literature can be.

You don't have to read more than a few pages before you are struck with the sheer majesty of Tolstoy's gargantuan narrative style, his command of all aspects of storytelling from the kind of deep understanding of character that one finds in Shakespeare, to the kind of descriptive power about people and their environs that can only come from someone with a prodigious memory, a sharp eye and an unusual ability to concentrate. Somehow Tolstoy always knows what to leave in and what to leave out. He knows how to describe without slowing down the tale or making the reader aware of "purple passages.
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Format: Paperback
I prefer novels much more than short stories, but decided to take a chance on this. I was pleasantly surprised. While the first few stories were a little bit of a chore to get through, the title story was magnificent. All of the stories revolved around the subject of death, but "The Death of Ivan Ilyich" stood out as a brilliant and nuanced existential journey of a man taking stock of his life as he faces his impending death. I thought this story would be the gem of the book, but then I was really taken by surprise with the final story, "The Forged Coupon," which may have been even better. In it, what initially starts out as a minor crime begins to have a ripple effect that touches countless people and has major and unpredictable ramifications.
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