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The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories Hardcover – Deckle Edge, November 17, 2009

4.6 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, December 2009: To anyone for whom Leo Tolstoy's masterpieces War and Peace and Anna Karenina have stood as giants too daunting to scale, and equally to the many readers who have devoured those novels and are hungry for more, we offer The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories. Newly translated by the team of Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, who have enlivened the Russian classics for a new generation, this selection of 11 of his finest stories reveals a Tolstoy of many sides and unsurpassed storytelling talents. Along with smaller gems like "Alyosha the Pot," the collection features a handful of thrilling longer tales that each carry the power of a novel: the terrifying murderer's confession of "The Kreuzer Sonata," the breathlessly dramatic path of a single crime through dozens of lives in "The Forged Coupon," and the haunting account of the isolation of mortality in the legendary title story. Most revelatory of all for a modern reader is the final novella, and Tolstoy's final work, "Hadji Murat," the disturbingly contemporary story of a fiercely honorable Chechen warrior caught between local rivalries and the ambivalent reach of a decadent empire. --Tom Nissley


"As good as anything Tolstoy ever wrote... Self-assured, vital, unforgettable" Guardian "The simplicity and power of this novella, the story of the terrible encroachment of death on a shallow man spiritually unprepared for it, has staggered millions" Sunday Telegraph "I don't read Russian, but I think Tolstoy's writing comes over whatever translation you read...he wrote the great, terrible story The Death of Ivan Illyich" -- Redmond O'Hanlon Independent "An indubitable masterpiece" -- Yann Martel "For me, the best insight into the process of dying comes from Leo Tolstoy in his short story, The Death of Ivan Ilych, which examines the life and death of the most ordinary man" -- Oliver James Mail on Sunday --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (November 17, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307268810
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307268815
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.6 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #820,314 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
Although Leo Tolstoy is primarily known for writing the juggernaut masterpieces Anna Karenina and War and Peace, readers venturing into the less formidable remainder of his canon will find within them the same incisive narrative clarity, that overarching symphonic structure, and those profound eternal questions that continue to immortalize him nearly a century after his death. His shorter fiction, while little resembling precise Chekhovian gems or pithy O. Henry exercises, encompasses a macrocosm of immense character and depth, highlighting more pronouncedly his work's finest qualities pared down to concision.

While the market is abundant with myriad editions of Tolstoy's stories, this new volume of his late fiction is particularly remarkable for the collaboration of translators Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, both of whom have rendered critically acclaimed translations of great Russian classics. Seasoned readers of Dostoevsky will invariably direct neophytes to their landmark The Brothers Karamazov, considered today as definitive for mirroring the author's ironic humor, tortured spirituality, and most importantly, his language's cadence and tonality. At the turn of the millennium, the couple released their Anna Karenina, which later garnered international attention upon Oprah's promotion of the title in her book club. Two years ago, Pevear and Volokhonsky also published their hefty, beautiful version of War and Peace, enthralling readers of serious literature and becoming the subject of a four-week online discussion presided by the New York Times.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've previously posted on one long piece in this book - Hadji Murat - on my blog, Gridley Fires The remainder of this book is a collection of short stories selected by the book's translators, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, no doubt to show off the diversity in Tolstoy's story structure and subject matter. But in doing this, they've perhaps inadvertently selected stories that, except for a pair, depict Tolstoy's project of using story to demonstrate his views on morality and ethics.

Some of his moral depictions here (and almost all literature trifles with ethical dilemmas of the author's times, to one degree or another) are as subtly put as those modern by a hundred years. On the other hand, others are actually quite ham-handed. But more on this subject below.

The translators made these stories entertaining - not only by showing us the more timeless aspects of Tolstoy's literary thinking - but in herding them ever so gracefully into modern times via a more contemporary language that refuses to betray Tolstoy and the language of that time. As I've implied previously, these two translators are likely without peer in doing so.

Possibly since I'm a blue collar dude by sensibility, my favorite story (besides Hadji Murat) is Master and Man, in which a man of means, Vassily Andreich and a servant, Nikita, an older muzhik, or peasant, take off on a winter trip to another town with a snowstorm looming. The story is a masterwork of the dynamics between the two men, how they both complement one another and manage inherent class conflicts. As well, it depicts as deftly as any modern work might the ways in which Nikita belongs to nature, in which he understands, despite his usual drunken state, how to navigate nature in such times and how to yield to it in order to survive. Vassily, on the other hand, is headstrong to a fault, which proves his undoing in this Jack London-style story of man versus the elements.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
NOTE: This review is of the Richard Pevear/Larissa Volokhonsky translation.

One thing that Leo Tolstoy could never be accused of was being a minimalist. He is best known for the massive novel 'Anna Karenina' and the even more massive 'War and Peace'. Almost all of his fiction seems to be an attempt to pack in as much panoramic life as possible. This characteristic applies to his shorter pieces as well as his novels.

This new translation (2009) assembles his best known stories as well as some lesser known ones as well and is presented chronologically, from the earliest, "The Prisoner of the Caucassus", written between the composition of 'War and Peace' and 'Anna Karenina', to his final novella, "Hadji Murat," written over the last two decades of his life and published posthumously a few years after his death. All of the stories deal with the themes familiar in his other works—how can a man lead a moral life, what should his attitude be toward the pleasures of the flesh, honor in the midst of war and equality among the classes.

"The Prisoner of the Caucassus" deals with a young soldier who has obtained leave from his regiment to visit his ailing mother and perhaps marry before she dies. On his way through the mountain passes he takes a wrong turn and is pursued by Tartars. His bafflement as to why these people would want to kill him is similar to young Nicolai Rostov in 'War and Peace', who had grown up in the bosom of family love and could not conceive that anyone would wish him harm. The naiveté quickly disappears as a steely resolve to survive takes its place. Tolstoy is a master at depicting wartime action and the campaigns of pursuit, capture or killing which are inherent in war.
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