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The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories Hardcover – Deckle Edge, November 17, 2009
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
Tolstoy who could be somewhat rigid in his religiosity, his writing nevertheless is first rate.
And it's a marked evolution. Every story thoroughly explores a deliberately focused theme through little more than simple narrative. Tolstoy, moralist that he is, always builds his characters and events around the most basic literary elements of humanity (dishonesty, loyalty, death), and his characters are usually guinea pigs created to be tested objectively in these situations, something like Chekhov but with a clearer message. Clear, lucid narrative and powerful themes make stories that are at least fascinating and, at best, enlightening. I really can't begin to do justice to his stories in a measly review because all the proof is in the reading.
Basically, if your life doesn't allow you the time to make the long-term commitment to War and Peace, satisfy yourself with these overlooked gems that the translators Pevear and Volokhonsky rightly recognized as needing a fresh translation for the new millennium. Get the hardcover edition because, if you're like me, you'll need something to hold up during a few re-readings of the best stories, and besides the binding obviously being solid, the texturing of the pages and cover and the size of the text raise it a cut above the average hardback edition.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Book was a had more wear and tear than I expected, but still worth purchasing.Published 16 days ago by Amazon Customer
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. Read more
Tolstoy is a master of the short story, and the issues he addresses are as fresh as this morning's news.Published 7 months ago by F. Kim Hodgson
I received this book of stories by Tolstoy for my birthday and I'm glad that I did! While I am slowly (like snail slow) reading War and Peace and upon reading this collection, I... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Ariel Dowling
a fine selection of some of Tolstoy's best stories which everyone will want to read after reading Henri Troyat's biography of Tolstoy.Published 12 months ago by Joyce Lawrence
Old book but still good. A question we all ask as we grow old, how will we face our inevitable death?Published 14 months ago by Charles W.Schuler
These are wonderful stories beautifully translated by Pevear and Volokhonsky, absolutely classic Tolstoy. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Joan C Champie
Marvelous translations of some of the greatest short stories ever written by an absolute master. Five stars aren't enough. Not by a wide margin.Published 19 months ago by Falstaff
Many people agree that The Beatles are the best band of all time (I'm actually not of this camp, but let's forget that for the sake of argument). Read morePublished on July 14, 2013 by simon belmont