THE DEATH OF IVAN ILYICH AND OTHER STORIES / Leo Tolstoy

In the brief compass of this novella (about 55 pages), written when Tolstoy was 58, we follow Ivan Ilyich transforming from a successful bureaucrat (attaining moderate prestige and income) to a terrified, dying man who wonders what was the point of it all.  We are reminded how seldom anyone considers his/her own mortality until social/economic “progress” is arrested or jeopardized by illness, accident, or other misfortune.  Tolstoy has Ivan convinced that his life of propriety and respectability was blameless, even laudable; but, until Ivan can surrender this false self-image and recognize his own pitiable humanity (and human imperfection in general) he cannot be reconciled to death.  Tolstoy weaves together significant domestic details with striking psychological observations as death approaches Ivan Ilyich.     Don 4/14/2017

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