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The Death of Ivan Ilyich and other Stories, with eBook PDF, ePub eBook Hailed as one of the world's supreme masterpieces on the subject of death and dying, Leo Tolstoy's "The Death of Ivan Ilyich" is the story of a worldly careerist, a high court judge who has never given the inevitability of his death so much as a passing thought. But one day, death announces itself to him, and to his shocked surprise he is brought face to face with his own Hailed as one of the world's supreme masterpieces on the subject of death and dying, Leo Tolstoy's "The Death of Ivan Ilyich" is the story of a worldly careerist, a high court judge who has never given the inevitability of his death so much as a passing thought. But one day, death announces itself to him, and to his shocked surprise he is brought face to face with his own mortality. How, Tolstoy asks, does an unreflective man confront his one and only moment of truth? This novella was the artistic culmination of a profound spiritual crisis in Tolstoy's life, a nine-year period following the publication of Anna Karenina during which he wrote not a word of fiction. A thoroughly absorbing and, at times, terrifying glimpse into the abyss of death, it is also a strong testament to the possibility of finding spiritual salvation. Also included in this volume are "The Forged Coupon," "After the Dance," "My Dream," "There Are No Guilty People," and "The Young Tsar."

30 review for The Death of Ivan Ilyich and other Stories, with eBook

  1. 5 out of 5

    brian

    you're all excited about someone new only to discover that the beatles are their all-time favorite band. the most popular pop/rock band of all time, wildly innovative, probably wrote more great songs than any other band... but your all-time favorite band? dullsville. which is why i'm hesitant to call out tolstoy as my favorite writer. but he just might be. at the very least he's sitting at the (head of the?) table with genet borges orwell and the other usual suspects. i know it because when i pop you're all excited about someone new only to discover that the beatles are their all-time favorite band. the most popular pop/rock band of all time, wildly innovative, probably wrote more great songs than any other band... but your all-time favorite band? dullsville. which is why i'm hesitant to call out tolstoy as my favorite writer. but he just might be. at the very least he's sitting at the (head of the?) table with genet borges orwell and the other usual suspects. i know it because when i popped into the store and saw this gorgeous new hardback of short stories by badass translators pevear & volokhonsky, well, it took all i had not to rub up against it in the store -- waited till i got in the car and dry-humped the shit outta this beautiful bitch. greatest hits of stories in here: ivan ilyich (love me do)? terrific if slightly overrated. the kreutzer sonata (happiness is a warm gun)? fucking great! master and man (blackbird)? i cry. the devil (i'm a loser)? amazing! hadji murat (a day in the life)? fucking genius! trust me, booknerds.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sumati

    The story of Ivan Ilyich was like wine — it goes down smoothly, but leaves a biting, succulent and lasting impression. The book is a deep and moving scrutiny of loss and absolution, in which the writer explores the dichotomy between the artificial and the authentic life. This book is probably the best account of the physiological and psychological panic, a man feels when so close to his own death. “Ivan Ilych's life had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible.” Ivan Ilyich The story of Ivan Ilyich was like wine — it goes down smoothly, but leaves a biting, succulent and lasting impression. The book is a deep and moving scrutiny of loss and absolution, in which the writer explores the dichotomy between the artificial and the authentic life. This book is probably the best account of the physiological and psychological panic, a man feels when so close to his own death. “Ivan Ilych's life had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible.” Ivan Ilyich is the story of a respected, gregarious and a healthy middle aged court justice who suddenly sickens and dies. He leaves behind a wife (a woman Ivan disliked), two grown up children, and a few startled friends/acquaintances whose reaction to his death range from better-him-than-me to how-will-this-affect-my-career-prospects. The novella examines the reactions of the wife, children and friends at Ivan’s funeral, but the bulk of the story summarizes Ivan’s life and his battle with death. 'I'll probably get Shtabel's or Vinnikov's job now,' thought Fyodor Vasilyevich." also "'I'll have to request a transfer from Kaluga for my brother-in-law now,' thought Pyotr Ivanovich.’the wife will be delighted. And now she won't be able to say I've never done anything for my relatives.'" At the beginning of the book, Ivan’s death is announced,the effects of which are clearly seen amongst the colleagues. Who are Fyodor Vasilyevich and Pyotr Ivanovich? Well, they are you and I. Individuals who react to death in selfish, materialistic, and fearful ways. Can it be that I have not lived as one ought?" suddenly came into his head. "But how not so, when I've done everything as it should be done?” In the eyes of the world, Ivan Ilyich was the epitome of success but in his own eyes he was a failure. Ilyich realizes that his entire hunt to befit himself into the shades of the society left him with absolutely no knowledge for coming to terms with death. Ultimately, the values of society left Ilyich with nothing of any true worth, with no idea of what his life should be. The modern society compels us to gloss over the reality of death. Society’s illusory and ludicrous norms force us to become strangers from life and death as well. “The very fact of the death of someone close to them aroused in all who heard about it, as always, a feeling of delight that he had died and they hadn't.” The brilliance of the book reflects when it brings light upon the dehumanizing aspects of our society. The doctor’s indifference towards the dying Ivan is nothing different than the insensitivity with which Ilyich treated the many that passed through his court during his career as a judge. Here, Tolstoy reminds us about the inability to recognize that other people’s lives are as significant as our own, is society’s greatest ill. “And suddenly, it became clear to me that all this should not exist. Not only that it should not exist, but that it does not exist, and if this does not exist, then there is no death or fear, and the former rending in me is no more, and I am no longer afraid of anything. Here the light shown fully upon me, and I became what I am.” At the very end Ilyich glimpses the joy of an authentic life and warns the reader of the dangers of living an unawakened life. Ivan’s last breath hopes that we can experience more than just a brief minute of this joy. Therefore, live fully! Life is itself a memento mori and death is the proof reminding us that only by accepting our death can we hope to live an authentic life. According to Tolstoy, we must go against the grain and contemplate what the value of our lives can be when they will eventually end in death, if we are to find any meaning in a society that has taken so much of it away from us.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    What a great collection of Tolstoy’s shorter fiction. Here are my star ratings for each story/novella: The prisoner of the Caucasus - 5 The diary of a madman - 3.5 The death of Ivan Ilyich - 5 The Kreutzer sonata - 5 The devil - 4 Master and man - 4.5 Father Sergius - 5 After the ball - 3.5 The forged coupon - 3 Alyosha the pot - 3 Hadji Murat - 5 I thought Father Sergius was the best, followed closely by Hadji Murat and Ivan Ilyich.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Viv JM

    My edition of “The Death of Ivan Ilych and Other Stories” was the Vintage book, translated by Pevear and Volhokonsky. It contains the following stories: The Death of Ivan Ilych The Prisoner of the Caucasus The Diary of a Madman The Kreutzer Sonata The Devil Master and Man Father Sergius After the Ball The Forged Coupon Alyosha the Pot Hadji Murat (those that are underlined, I have reviewed separately – follow the link for the review) There are some definite repeated themes - namely sex, death and religious r My edition of “The Death of Ivan Ilych and Other Stories” was the Vintage book, translated by Pevear and Volhokonsky. It contains the following stories: The Death of Ivan Ilych The Prisoner of the Caucasus The Diary of a Madman The Kreutzer Sonata The Devil Master and Man Father Sergius After the Ball The Forged Coupon Alyosha the Pot Hadji Murat (those that are underlined, I have reviewed separately – follow the link for the review) There are some definite repeated themes - namely sex, death and religious redemption. Mostly, the first leads to the second or the third! As with any collection of stories, there are some I like more than others. I think my favourites would be “Master and Man” and “The Forged Coupon”. I found “Hadji Murat” a bit of a slog.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Scriptor Ignotus

    I have something to say, which, for lovers of literature, might be borderline blasphemous. I read Tolstoy, and…and… He’s okay. Just okay. He didn’t rock my world. He didn’t change my life. His prose is good, but not magnificent; his characters are relatable, but not unforgettable; his stories are interesting, but not quite compelling. I didn’t come away from these stories convinced, as so many are, that Tolstoy is the greatest writer who ever lived. In fact, of the four great Russian writers I re I have something to say, which, for lovers of literature, might be borderline blasphemous. I read Tolstoy, and…and… He’s okay. Just okay. He didn’t rock my world. He didn’t change my life. His prose is good, but not magnificent; his characters are relatable, but not unforgettable; his stories are interesting, but not quite compelling. I didn’t come away from these stories convinced, as so many are, that Tolstoy is the greatest writer who ever lived. In fact, of the four great Russian writers I recall having read—Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Turgenev, and Lermontov—I would put Tolstoy in third place, in front of Turgenev, with Lermontov marginally better than him and Dostoyevsky leagues ahead of anyone else. Granted, I am a Dostoyevsky fanboy, and I haven’t read Tolstoy’s two great novels: Anna Karenina and War and Peace. Maybe if I read either of those works, my tune would change dramatically, and I’d be embarrassed for having written this review. Maybe I’m just a Philistine. But I’m a Philistine who calls them like he sees them. There’s an interesting variety to the stories in my edition. There are war stories, like “The Prisoner of the Caucasus” and “Hadji Murat”; there are meditations on death—the final frontier of the soul’s journey—and our struggle to find peace and redemption in the face of it, in “The Diary of a Madman” and “The Death of Ivan Ilyich”; there’s an extensive diatribe against…erm…sex(?) masquerading as a novella in “The Kreutzer Sonata”; and there’s a little common-man hagiography called “Alyosha the Pot”, which, despite being only a few pages long, I found to be the most evocative work in the collection. I’m sorry, Tolstoyists. Coke is better than Pepsi, Tupac is better than Biggie, and Dostoyevsky is better than Tolstoy. Westside!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Ivan Ilych’s life revolved around his career; as a high court judge he takes his job very seriously. However after he falls off a ladder, he soon discovers that he is going to die. The Death of Ivan Ilyich is a novella that deals with the meaning of life in the face of death. A masterpiece for Leo Tolstoy written after his religious conversion in the late 1870s. Something that was fascinating about The Death of Ivan Ilyich is the drastic change in writing style when comparing it to Anna Karenina Ivan Ilych’s life revolved around his career; as a high court judge he takes his job very seriously. However after he falls off a ladder, he soon discovers that he is going to die. The Death of Ivan Ilyich is a novella that deals with the meaning of life in the face of death. A masterpiece for Leo Tolstoy written after his religious conversion in the late 1870s. Something that was fascinating about The Death of Ivan Ilyich is the drastic change in writing style when comparing it to Anna Karenina and War and Peace. I am not just referring to the length, but that does play a big part. I have read somewhere that Tolstoy intentionally made Anna Karenina and War and Peace so long because he wanted to replicate life and the journey the characters face. Allowing the reader to experience every decision and moral dilemma that the character is facing, exploring the growth or evolution of each and every person within the novels. The Death of Ivan Ilyich takes a more focused approach, dealing with major questions revolving around the meaning of life, death and spirituality. Leo Tolstoy had a major conversion in the late 1870s and the questions in this novel were the questions he was asking himself. Whether or not Ivan Ilyich found the answers he was looking for is up to the reader but it is believed that Leo Tolstoy was still looking for the same answers well after finishing this novella. There is a lot of pain and torment that appears in this book, which reflects the authors search for answers and that is what really stood out for me. Not only was I reading a spiritual/existential struggle of the protagonist but Tolstoy’s own feeling really came out within the pages. This is what makes this a masterpiece that explores the tortured artist in great detail. I don’t want to say much more, this is the type of book people have to read and make their own mind up about the themes presented, but it is worth reading. This review originally appeared on my blog; http://literary-exploration.com/2015/...

  7. 4 out of 5

    Bryan "goes on a bit too long"

    Fantastic collection of stories, including The Death of Ivan Ilyich, The Kreutzer Sonata, and Hadji Murat among others. Generally, I find it hard to rate a single-author short-story collection five stars because either the quality varies, or too many of the stories sound similar. But with this collection, there are no duds, and there is also a wide variation in the types of stories. Highly recommended.

  8. 5 out of 5

    leynes

    This is a clear case of It's not you, it's me! I simply wasn't ready for this. When I couldn't participate in the War and Peace-readalong due to my busy schedule, I decided to compensate by reading a short story collection by Tolstoy instead. I thought it would be quick and fun. I couldn't have been more wrong. It turns out that Tolstoy is much more philosophical and political than I expected, and since I have no knowledge whatsover on Russian history and culture, it was extremely hard for me to This is a clear case of It's not you, it's me! I simply wasn't ready for this. When I couldn't participate in the War and Peace-readalong due to my busy schedule, I decided to compensate by reading a short story collection by Tolstoy instead. I thought it would be quick and fun. I couldn't have been more wrong. It turns out that Tolstoy is much more philosophical and political than I expected, and since I have no knowledge whatsover on Russian history and culture, it was extremely hard for me to follow along. On a very subjective note, I have to say that I found the stories (except for The Forged Coupon) extremely boring and drawn-out. The characters weren't memorable and I didn't connect to any of them. I really had to force myself to keep on turning the pages. But on a more objective note, after having done more research on each short story and the author himself (turns out Tolstoy almost got murdered by a bear once... like whuaat?), I understand their core message a lot better, and thus appreciate the collection as a whole a lot more. Tolstoy in his later years was famously a man with a mission. From the 1880s he sought more directly to understand the turmoil of contemporary Russia which escalated after the assassination of Alexander II in 1881 and in his lifetime culminated in the Revolution of 1905. No solutions, Tolstoy felt, could be found either for the problems individuals or society faced without due consideration of issues about property and ownership, the meaning of spiritual enlightement, the formulation of ethical ideals, and identifying sources of goodness and evil. Tolstoy's later works of fiction, such as the stories collected here, reflect sustained soul-searching about the value of literature. The concern of how people live only intensified as his own spiritual crises in the late 1860s and 1870s brought a life-changing sense of his own mortality. Having lived as a young man for himself, and then been the family man on his country estate, Tolstoy had begun to lvie for others and for God. He convinced himself that social activism and the promotion of what he called 'a good life' were his true vocation. The first short story in this collection, The Two Old Men, deals with the ethics of character. In Tolstoy's fiction man and woman are social animals, subject to the pressures of class, the village, the family unit, and peer group. Through his virtually daily interaction with peasants at his school, on the estate, and in his restless rambling about the countryside, Tolstoy collected dozens of anectodes and tales that in his view distilled the moral essence of the Russian peasantry. The Two Old Men emanates from that world, situating the timelessness of Christian pilgrimage within the modern world of steamships and itineraries. At the centre of the story are two peasant heroes, one rich and one poor, whose pilgrimage provides the horizontal structure for the episodes they experience. One of them, in his exemplary selflessness, acquires the reputation of a saint, while the other finely balances material and spiritual concerns. Both are treated affectionately by Tolstoy and reflect his ideal of Christian humanism. The second story, How Much Land Does a Man Need?, deals with capitalism and the evils of property. Tolstoy repeatedly denounced money as an evil when coveted for itself. Tolstoy's concern regarding the dangers of property-ownership stem from his belief that once you own property you are obliged to defend it, and once the need arises for defence violence must follow. Like other stories in this volume, this one pits individual determination against accident. The story considers the paradox that the more one strives after material security, the greater the risk that everything will be forfeited. The story is attuned to the psychological stress of ownership when an individual negotiates between an old idea of sufficency and a seductive image of wealth. Harmony both for the individual and society could be achieved if and only if individuals achieved an inner state of control over their wants. Impulses to the good and bad might be temporarily held in check, but human nature put human beings at the mercy of combinations of personality and circumstance that could wreck nouble intentions. The next two stories, The Forged Coupon and Master and Workman, deal with questions of justice and how causality and motivation can determine one's actions. In Tolstoy's later works, no heroes make any great claims for controlling events, and the focus of the narrator is on seeing events as they unfold, sometimes bewilderingly. One key question for Tolstoy is whether randomness leads anywhere, whether the destination might be accidental and still have moral significance. The Forged Coupon takes up the problem of unintended consequences and illustrates the shift in emphasis from agency to accident, and to seeing the whole picture in terms of the butterfly effect, where distant rather than proximate causes contribute to a sequence. Part 1 is structured as a chain of seemingly unrelated events that all derive from a single mishap at the beginning. Or do they? The story could be driven by coincidence that is unfortunate but fatal. In Master and Workman Tolstoy reveals the fluidity of identity as a set of impulses and responses that are fixed in the timelessness of the present as lived through. A landowner and servant set out on a short jounrey by sled. They lose their way briefly during a sudden snowstorm, and subsequently regain the right path only to be led fatally off course by recurring bad weather. (The blizzard has served Russian writers well to represent overwhelming force, whether elemental nature, fate, or an oppressive state.) At one level, this is a tale of two individuals whose class relations, socio-economic status, and expectations determine their response to the storm and to their fate, controlled to some unknowable degree by luck. And yet at the same time, in its use of an elemental setting the story also has the universal quality of a fable whose precise lesson can be suggested but not entirely fixed. In the last two stories, Alyosha Pot and The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Tolstoy processes his struggle to square the circle of life and death, of meaning and erasure. Does death necessarily make life senseless? Tolstoy, who often assumed extreme positions before arguing his way back to a more nuanced view, clearly found the conclusion that 'there is nothing worse than life' intuitively and intellectually unacceptable. The need to go out and meet and make life, rather than allow life to come to one passively, defined his philosophy. In Alyosha Pot Tolstoy uses his art to capture the thoughts and feelings of the meekest of men, a hero who is only seemingly simple but incarnates an ideal of wise resignation and selfless love. Alyosha's emotional intelligence, however, is beyond the reach of his masters who, coarse and unsympathetic, refuse him the right to marry. The Death of Ivan Ilyich is an unflinching depiction of social hypocrisy. Yet Tolstoy uses this tale also to raise the possibility that Ivan Ilyich's resignation to death also occasions a spiritual awakening. The light he sees instead of death is limitless and indefinable. This collection is packed with a lot of brilliant ideas and so much food for thought that I will take my time to properly digest them. Whilst the stories were no particular joy to read and definitely too fastidious for me, I still had a lot of fun researching them and learning a bit more about Tolstoy himself.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    The stories in this collection are: Family Happiness (1859) The Death of Ivan Ilyich (1886) The Kreutzer Sonata (1889) Master and Man (1895)

  10. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    In writing "Family Happiness," "The Death of Ivan Ilych," "The Kreutzer Sonata," and "Hadji Murad," not to mention War and Peace, etc., Tolstoy deployed and displayed his tremendous intellect, aesthetic gifts, and his peculiarly dispassionate but hard-hitting moral anger: a definite attitude toward the failings of man and human institutions like marriage, war, and imperial rule. "Family Happiness" revolves around an older family friend falling in love with an orphaned girl who has just attained m In writing "Family Happiness," "The Death of Ivan Ilych," "The Kreutzer Sonata," and "Hadji Murad," not to mention War and Peace, etc., Tolstoy deployed and displayed his tremendous intellect, aesthetic gifts, and his peculiarly dispassionate but hard-hitting moral anger: a definite attitude toward the failings of man and human institutions like marriage, war, and imperial rule. "Family Happiness" revolves around an older family friend falling in love with an orphaned girl who has just attained marriageable age. Against his better own better judgment, he proposes. As she matures, she discovers the cosmopolitan appeal of St. Petersburg, which her husband already has come to disdain. The best scenes in this affecting descent into realistic accommodation as opposed to romantic love have to do with the two of them baiting one another, withdrawing from one another, and generally underperforming their personal values. In the end, their love still glows but casts off neither flames nor light. "The Death of Ivan Ilych" is a harsh judgment on an upwardly mobile, vaguely noble bureaucrat who learns that death, which is supposed to happen to someone else, is happening to him. The way he is emotionally abandoned by his family before he expires is highly educational and not altogether unwarranted. And then he tumbles into the tunnel of no return, a ghastly journey. This is a masterpiece of narration and irony. Tolstoy always has a grip on his subject here. The same cannot quite be said of "The Kreutzer Sonata," which suffers from a gassy run-up to the facts of the matter, i.e., our protagonist's transformation from a civilized human being into a murderer who gets away with it...not that he ends up pleased with what he's done. Hadji Murad is a tale of Russias endless assaults on the peoples of the Caucasus region. Hadji is a chieftain at war with another chieftain. He's decided to align himself with the Russians in the hopes of rescuing his kidnapped family and taking over as the principal lord of of the Muslim lands (under Russia's control, however). This is a majestic story of action, ethnographic insight, and cross-cultural cynicism. One really striking passage is the portrayal of the czar, brutally and blindly pulling strings from St. Petersburg. Tolstoy leaps back and forth between dramatically different settings with complete ease and authority, and here, I would say, his ghastly ending not only comports with historical realities but also reflects a naturalistic as opposed to moralistic perspective. He cannot like but cannot dispute Hadji Murad's fate. I've read these stories before--and so have you, I imagine--but found them worth rereading. Tolstoy is so wonderfully merciless in sorting through our frailties.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sachin Piya

    "Death of Ivan Ilych" is one of the best short stories I have ever read. In only about 100 pages, Tolstoy describes the facing of death by Ivan Ilych, who basically has lived as any other ordinary man. The story shows how once joyous and happy moments can seem worthless and fruitless moments when one is staring at death. Through this story, Tolstoy makes us look back to our life and look for anything extraordinary we have done. He makes us wonder whether doing everything that we think we "ought "Death of Ivan Ilych" is one of the best short stories I have ever read. In only about 100 pages, Tolstoy describes the facing of death by Ivan Ilych, who basically has lived as any other ordinary man. The story shows how once joyous and happy moments can seem worthless and fruitless moments when one is staring at death. Through this story, Tolstoy makes us look back to our life and look for anything extraordinary we have done. He makes us wonder whether doing everything that we think we "ought to do" is enough to make us be at peace at death bed. This short book of Tolstoy is a must read and I recommend it to everybody.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Charles

    This contains 4 of Tolstoy's short stories, although all four are relatively long tales. I found them all a bit slow for my tastes but there is some very good stuff here that hits pretty hard. The first story is "Family Happiness," about a love affair developing between a young woman just coming of age and a considerably older man. It details the build up of passion in the relationship that then matures into a more long-term emotional bond. I found it quite good, although longer than necessary. This contains 4 of Tolstoy's short stories, although all four are relatively long tales. I found them all a bit slow for my tastes but there is some very good stuff here that hits pretty hard. The first story is "Family Happiness," about a love affair developing between a young woman just coming of age and a considerably older man. It details the build up of passion in the relationship that then matures into a more long-term emotional bond. I found it quite good, although longer than necessary. Then we have "The Death of Ivan Ilych," the best story I've read by Tolstoy, and one that wrings the last measure of emotion out of the reader as Ivan Ilych lies dying. A very good story. Next we have "The Kreutzer Sonata," a kind of treatise on love. Despite having the story told second hand rather than being shown, I found the tale about a man's developing jealousy and the murder of his wife to be compellilng. The last tale here is "Master and Man," which was--in my opinion--definitely second rate and not up to the quality of the other three. A rich man who is concerned only with accruing more wealth forces one of his workers to take him out in a blizzard so that he can make a business deal. They get lost in the snow twice and find their way to a village, but rather than take the hint the man heads out again and the expected happens. They get completely lost and must try to survive the night in freezing conditions. I felt sorry for the worker and the horse pulling their buggy but absolutely no sympathy for the rich man and could only hope that he would die as quickly as possible.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    I'm not a typically a fan of short stories, but this collection is unbelievable. Each story covers one or two topics central to life, society, and death. I can't help but think that stories like these gave way to the idea that fiction is better at conveying truth than any nonfiction possibly could. The first story is Family Happiness. It concerns romantic, passionate love and its passing nature, and how unhappiness is driven by our internal wants and losing sight of what brought happiness to begi I'm not a typically a fan of short stories, but this collection is unbelievable. Each story covers one or two topics central to life, society, and death. I can't help but think that stories like these gave way to the idea that fiction is better at conveying truth than any nonfiction possibly could. The first story is Family Happiness. It concerns romantic, passionate love and its passing nature, and how unhappiness is driven by our internal wants and losing sight of what brought happiness to begin with. Tolstoy also outlines the demands and dangers of social obligations, subordinating the marital relationship, and vanity. It's a good story to kick off this book. Next up is The Death of Ivan Ilych. What a masterful piece of writing. We learn right from the start that Ilych has died. he rest of the story is about his acceptance of his death and his perception of how others around him react to and deal with it. The story also details Ilych's death from a few other's perspective. The overarching message is that none of us live life considering death as a possibility. The third story is the Kreutzer Sonata. It begins as a story about love, but quickly evolves into an all-out war against the very notion. The commentary is just as relevant today as it was in the 19th century. This was my favorite of the four stories. The final story is Master and Man. It's about a wealthy landowner who takes a servant with him on a short journey to a neighboring town to buy a piece of land. The twist is that they leave in the middle of a snowstorm. The theme here is in the neighborhood of the Death of Ivan Ilych, again commenting on what it means to live and what we hold important during that time.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Justin Evans

    It's nice to be reminded every now and then that moralization can be used to make great literature, since our literature is so dominated by the idea that moralizing is always a flaw. Tolstoy appears to have been a natural at moralizing. Others will not doubt disagree, but I'm willing to argue that the best stories here are precisely those in which the moral of the story (or morality of the author) comes through most clearly: Ivan Ilyich, of course, but also The Kreutzer Sonata, The Devil, Master It's nice to be reminded every now and then that moralization can be used to make great literature, since our literature is so dominated by the idea that moralizing is always a flaw. Tolstoy appears to have been a natural at moralizing. Others will not doubt disagree, but I'm willing to argue that the best stories here are precisely those in which the moral of the story (or morality of the author) comes through most clearly: Ivan Ilyich, of course, but also The Kreutzer Sonata, The Devil, Master and Man, Father Sergius, and After the Ball (Alyosha the Pot is also moralizing, but unbearably dull. Alyosha is just good. It's important to the other stories that we see the evil as well as the simple hearts. The Forged Coupon is moralizing, but is also a Dostoevsky novel shrunk down to 1/10th of its original size and given a happy ending. No thank you). The bookending tales set in the Russian borderlands, on the other hand, are rollicking, but not particularly inspiring. I was very disappointed with Hadji Murat, in particular, though it made me want to learn more (something, anything) about the region. Anything else I have to say will be said better by Tolstoy. Well, almost anything. The Kreutzer Sonata features a wonderful proto-Bernhardian rant, in this case against marriage. I'd love to know if Bernhard had read it, what he thought of it, and if anyone has compared his work with Tolstoy's story.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Tolstoy cracks me up. Sometimes his prose is so modern, so spot-on, so genius, so undoubtedly right, that I chuckle as I'm reading. I love when he writes things like, "Of course as soon as he left the room, they all began to talk about him. (This is paraphrased.)" Or even better, "Besides the reflections upon the changes and promotions in the service likely to ensue from this death, the very fact of the death of an intimate acquaintance excited in every one who heard of it, as such a fact always Tolstoy cracks me up. Sometimes his prose is so modern, so spot-on, so genius, so undoubtedly right, that I chuckle as I'm reading. I love when he writes things like, "Of course as soon as he left the room, they all began to talk about him. (This is paraphrased.)" Or even better, "Besides the reflections upon the changes and promotions in the service likely to ensue from this death, the very fact of the death of an intimate acquaintance excited in every one who heard of it, as such a fact always does, a feeling of relief that 'it is he that is dead, and not I.'" (The Death of Ivan Ilych). I enjoyed this grouping of short stories for the variety of topic and as always, his sparkling insights into marriage, death, revenge and adultery. The last story in the series, Hadji Murad, was the only one that dragged on a bit, but I have tendency to tune out when reading about battle scenes. I don't even like watching battle scenes in movies (it's a great time to go get popcorn). What else can I say? Most people would agree that he's a genius and it's hard to go wrong with his work. Anna Karenina is still my favorite, but I'm willing to go the distance next time (maybe next year) and try War and Peace.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tam Sothonprapakonn

    Tolstoy keeps it so damn real. He tells it as it is. He describes life and death in such an excellent way that hasn't been done by any other writers that I've read before. He talks about love with both warm intimacy and brutal honesty, and not just romantic love, but also the love for God (I really like his particular ideal of Christianity, even though I myself am of no religion.), for goodness (His stories are like moral teachings.), and for fellow humans (He reminds us this again and again in Tolstoy keeps it so damn real. He tells it as it is. He describes life and death in such an excellent way that hasn't been done by any other writers that I've read before. He talks about love with both warm intimacy and brutal honesty, and not just romantic love, but also the love for God (I really like his particular ideal of Christianity, even though I myself am of no religion.), for goodness (His stories are like moral teachings.), and for fellow humans (He reminds us this again and again in his stories). Favorites: The Death of Ivan Ilyich - In the face of impending death, Ivan Ilyich looks back at his seemingly perfect life, learning that his whole life was indeed wrong, and finally finds redemption through the light. The Kreutzer Sonata - Love and jealously, the dark side of marriages. Master and Man - I cried. The Devil - A dark story about lust, depravity, and the fall of a family man. The Forged Coupon - Fucking genius.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Tatiana

    The story "The Death of Ivan Ilych" is one of my favorite stories ever written. Everything about it is so true. Tolstoy had that knack of speaking plain truth about subjects like death and war that we almost instinctively idealize for ourselves in our thoughts and writings, so that the simple truth, when we read it, hits us like a powerful revelation. This narrative of one man's journey from a busy, full middle class life into sickness and then his final slide into death is like death itself, bo The story "The Death of Ivan Ilych" is one of my favorite stories ever written. Everything about it is so true. Tolstoy had that knack of speaking plain truth about subjects like death and war that we almost instinctively idealize for ourselves in our thoughts and writings, so that the simple truth, when we read it, hits us like a powerful revelation. This narrative of one man's journey from a busy, full middle class life into sickness and then his final slide into death is like death itself, both mundane and profound. The image of Ivan Ilych's black bag shall be a part of my mental landscape forever.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Esther Pyle

    Each story is brilliant in its own way, but I would definitely recommend reading each story separately and not reading them one after another. I found that when I previously read the Kreutzer sonata I loved it because I could get into Tolstoy's story and philosophy completely whereas this time round I already had much to think on from the previous stories. I think each story says so much about human nature, relationships and who we are that to do them justice they need to be read individually.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Madelyn

    rather drab plot, but excellent style.

  20. 4 out of 5

    J.M. Hushour

    Shockingly not-good. Tolstoy's shorter works suffer from the utter lack of subtlety and nuance that make W&P and AK so memorable and beautiful. Indeed: most of the stories collected here are so severe and preachy that the reader might be excused for thinking he'd happened into some sort of bizarre seminary lecture. Wealthy and noble characters "fall" and get spiritual repeatedly. That's the dominating theme. People are oversexed and should abstain. Fiction should be artless and message-ful, Shockingly not-good. Tolstoy's shorter works suffer from the utter lack of subtlety and nuance that make W&P and AK so memorable and beautiful. Indeed: most of the stories collected here are so severe and preachy that the reader might be excused for thinking he'd happened into some sort of bizarre seminary lecture. Wealthy and noble characters "fall" and get spiritual repeatedly. That's the dominating theme. People are oversexed and should abstain. Fiction should be artless and message-ful, one of Tolstoy's personal dilemmas with his writing. A few shine" "Master and Man" is great. "Alyosha the Pot" is great. "Father Sergius" is the best out of the preachy lot. The others fall flat.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Gordon Jonas

    Tolstoy kept it very fucking real. I find that "the Russians" material is generally surprisingly relevant for this day and age, even as early as Turgenev, and this is no exception. The first story in this collection, Family Happiness, is a bit slow and maybe the least accessible of the bunch. Still, the topic of filial life is examined in an interesting, if slightly depressing way. Everything after is gold. The kreutzner sonata is dark and examines aspects of the female condition and the male ps Tolstoy kept it very fucking real. I find that "the Russians" material is generally surprisingly relevant for this day and age, even as early as Turgenev, and this is no exception. The first story in this collection, Family Happiness, is a bit slow and maybe the least accessible of the bunch. Still, the topic of filial life is examined in an interesting, if slightly depressing way. Everything after is gold. The kreutzner sonata is dark and examines aspects of the female condition and the male psyche in remarkably prescient fashion. The titular (what a great word) story is fantastic in its own right, though you can get the gist of it just from the litany of commentary on it. The last story, HadjiMurad, was the most interesting to me. It is a narrative, based on true events and real folk hero Hadji Murad, depicting the conflict between the Russians and the people of Chechnya. Tolstoy makes excellent use of omniscient narration and shows surprising empathy for the Avars and respect for the diligence and loyalty of their culture. There is also no shortage of political commentary; Tolstoy does not hesitate to rip into the lofty lifestyles of Russian gentry. After this introduction to his work, I'm (almost) ready for War & Peace.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jennie

    Family Happiness: Well-written but trite. Still a pleasant reading experience. Such a view of marriage is very depressing though. The Death of Ivan Ilych: Very thought-provoking, especially in the context of the literature of contemporary Russian intelligentsia. Easily the best of the bunch. The Kreutzer Sonata: Another story where somebody is a psychologically disturbed douchebag, and tries to redeem themselves by coming up with an extensive new system of morality that justifies their actions. Pe Family Happiness: Well-written but trite. Still a pleasant reading experience. Such a view of marriage is very depressing though. The Death of Ivan Ilych: Very thought-provoking, especially in the context of the literature of contemporary Russian intelligentsia. Easily the best of the bunch. The Kreutzer Sonata: Another story where somebody is a psychologically disturbed douchebag, and tries to redeem themselves by coming up with an extensive new system of morality that justifies their actions. Personal accountabilty? What's that? My Russian History professor in college described this story as "excruciatingly painful," and I have to concur. Master and Man: Trite again, but okay. Makes travelling the wilds of Russia in winter seem pretty intimidating, though.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Simon Robs

    These stories conjure Tolstoy's both demons and beatitudes as shadow characters in his own grappled existence; his struggle large and small, low and high. They are men in mostly manly situations in life's conflicting roles and expectation. Men who control and lose it and find it again through absolution and giving over. Men who kill and are killed but live directly. Life is ever weighed according to ultimate meaning. Tolstoy can't laugh at life even when it confounds him and plays him a fool and These stories conjure Tolstoy's both demons and beatitudes as shadow characters in his own grappled existence; his struggle large and small, low and high. They are men in mostly manly situations in life's conflicting roles and expectation. Men who control and lose it and find it again through absolution and giving over. Men who kill and are killed but live directly. Life is ever weighed according to ultimate meaning. Tolstoy can't laugh at life even when it confounds him and plays him a fool and his characters know it. There's just no levity here but there's life howbeit tortured and death releases its teacher to each his/her reader. Hallelujah.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Shelley

    "Ivan Ilyich", "Master and Man", and "Hadji Murat" are clearly the masterpieces in this collection of novellas and short stories. Terse, vigorous, they brim with the veracity of life. "Hadji Murat", as the American critic Harold Bloom points out, is basically Homer meets Hemingway and a blueprint for For Whom the Bell Tolls. Mmm. "The Kreutzer Sonato" and "The Devil", on the other hand, showcase Tolstoy's bizarre misogyny. "Father Sergius" and "The Forged Coupon" are supposed to have some kind of "Ivan Ilyich", "Master and Man", and "Hadji Murat" are clearly the masterpieces in this collection of novellas and short stories. Terse, vigorous, they brim with the veracity of life. "Hadji Murat", as the American critic Harold Bloom points out, is basically Homer meets Hemingway and a blueprint for For Whom the Bell Tolls. Mmm. "The Kreutzer Sonato" and "The Devil", on the other hand, showcase Tolstoy's bizarre misogyny. "Father Sergius" and "The Forged Coupon" are supposed to have some kind of spiritual meaning, but come across as myths and fables, rather than representations of real life. Even great writers write weird stuff is my conclusion. Meh.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Chris Fazio

    What a brutal read. The great Russian novelists had a way of attacking psychological phenomena without any frill or pretense. "The Death of Ivan Ilyich" strips bare a typical, mundane life by methodically removing each meaningless layer until the reader is left with the same terrible realization of the protagonist: that there is nothing more than this. Tolstoy doesn't guide you toward any interpretation or offer a soothing moral. This is a story that treats death as starkly and unromantically as What a brutal read. The great Russian novelists had a way of attacking psychological phenomena without any frill or pretense. "The Death of Ivan Ilyich" strips bare a typical, mundane life by methodically removing each meaningless layer until the reader is left with the same terrible realization of the protagonist: that there is nothing more than this. Tolstoy doesn't guide you toward any interpretation or offer a soothing moral. This is a story that treats death as starkly and unromantically as death treats us. Have you lived as you "ought to live"?

  26. 4 out of 5

    Steven

    [I'll write a proper review when I have the time.]

  27. 4 out of 5

    Flamure Mehmeti

    Tolstoy with his views about human relationships, especially those matrimonial ones, fascinates me! He reflects at the core of human nature. Lust, being at the heart of man's emotional turbulence and misery!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Thought provoking and poignant.

  29. 4 out of 5

    James

    The Death of Ivan Ilych is notable for many things not the least being its focus on the life of Ivan Ilych; for, after introducing the narrative with the announcement of his death the story continues with his life up to and including his last days. This is the story of a very ordinary man, a Russian equivalent of an American John Smith, who is notable by his coworkers as being likable, but not so important that they do not make their first thoughts upon his death an intense discussion about how The Death of Ivan Ilych is notable for many things not the least being its focus on the life of Ivan Ilych; for, after introducing the narrative with the announcement of his death the story continues with his life up to and including his last days. This is the story of a very ordinary man, a Russian equivalent of an American John Smith, who is notable by his coworkers as being likable, but not so important that they do not make their first thoughts upon his death an intense discussion about how each might benefit from his passing -- whether through promotion or increase in salary. A deceptively simple tale, it is admirable in its brevity, succinctness, and even ordinariness. Reading this short novel reminded me of some of the existentialist works that I have read and studied over the years (think of Camus' The Stranger or The Plague). Tolstoy's story is a meditation on the death of an every man, a bureaucrat whose life was anything but uncommon. Effortlessly, Tolstoy examines life’s shallow exteriors as well as its inner workings. And in the quotidian details of a life we see pageant of folly. After noting Ivan's rise to apparent success in chapter three, there begins a slow descent into illness and inevitably death. As death approaches there are signs ignored, reality deferred, and only slowly does wisdom emerge not like a dull moral lesson, but heavy, as if from a downpour, with all the weight, shine and freshness of real life. We see, vividly, Ivan Ilych’s errors until one day we realize that someone is looking at us as if we were a character in The Death of Ivan Ilych. This is a small book with a large impact on the reader. It is one that has not lost its power more than a century after its first appearance. The Devil is a fable-like short story from the from the latter period of Tolstoy's fiction writing career, almost thirty years after his own marriage. In it two young men, Eugene Irtenev and his brother, are left a large inheritance after the death of their father. In spite of the debts associated with the inheritance, Eugene accepts it and buys off his brother's portion, thinking that he can sell off large tracts of land while making improvements to the rest. Living alone with his mother while working on the farm, Eugene misses the relations he had with women while living in St. Petersburg. After inquiring in the village, he is introduced to a young peasant named Stepanida whose husband lives away in the city. For several months Eugene and Stepanida have encounters, with Eugene paying her each time. Eventually, Eugene's mother thinks it is time for him to get married, preferably to an heiress who will help them with their debts. However her plan is foiled when Eugene falls in love with Liza Annenskaya, a charming middle-class girl, and they are married after Eugene breaks off relations with Stepanida. After a year of marriage, Liza employs two peasant women to help with cleaning the estate. One of them is Stepanida. When Eugene notices her, all the passion for her that he thought was forgotten comes rushing back. He can't stop thinking about her and decides that she must be sent away. Liza later suffers a harmful fall while pregnant, and Eugene takes her for a rest cure to the Crimea for two months on doctor's orders. She gives birth to a daughter, and Eugene's financial prospects are starting to look promising. His estate is described as being in the best working condition it has ever been, and he thinks he is finally happy. At a village festival, Eugene notices Stepanida dancing, and their glances re-awaken his desire. Tormented by lust, he thinks of resuming relations with her, but realizes that the affair would cause too much of a scandal. Eugene says of Stepanida, "She's a devil. An outright devil. She's taken possession of me against my will. Kill? yes. Only two ways out: kill my wife or her. Because to live like this is impossible." (p 204) (Following this there are two versions of the ending presented by the translators, Pevear and Volokhonsky) Each version of the ending is fundamentally similar for while in the original version Eugene commits suicide with a revolver, in the revised version he kills Stepanida followed by prison and a return home where he drowns himself with drink. This story seems like a straightforward cautionary tale with Eugene refusing to take responsibility for his own lack of moral fiber or will. Tolstoy is suggesting we should be responsible for our actions, but are we ever really able to control our will? Is there instead an "Imp of the Perverse" who takes control out of our hands and minds? That was an idea suggested by Edgar Allan Poe and it may be the reason why we sometimes lose our mind. If we are luckier than Eugene we may be able to keep our life (if not our mistress).

  30. 4 out of 5

    Rade

    Tolstoy is one of those authors who you either love with a passion or hate with all your might. His stories are often bleak with a dark and often satirical look at life and all its goodness. I read an article that explained how Tolstoy used to have such emotional fluctuations that often translated to his books/stories. From being vegetarian and making his wife cook two dinners every day, to making her breastfeed all 13 kids even though it caused her pain (wet nurses were quite common in Russia d Tolstoy is one of those authors who you either love with a passion or hate with all your might. His stories are often bleak with a dark and often satirical look at life and all its goodness. I read an article that explained how Tolstoy used to have such emotional fluctuations that often translated to his books/stories. From being vegetarian and making his wife cook two dinners every day, to making her breastfeed all 13 kids even though it caused her pain (wet nurses were quite common in Russia during this time). He was disapproving of others and was even icy and indifferent towards his own family. His wife Sofia offered all her love to him and yearned to broaden her horizons but was was constantly met with disapproving sermons by her estranged husband. Anyway, on to the stories: Family Happiness: This story was kind of all over the place. The female in it was one moment happy, one sad, one wanting her husband to pay attention to her, one hating him, one wanting him to care, one hating him for caring too much, etc. It is like she was bipolar or had mood swings. Fine if she does, but that was not stated explicitly. Just remember, love runs deep. The Death of Ivan Illych The most famous one, this one deals with a man obsessed with work and once he gets ill, he reflects on it to see if he did everything right and whether to accept his fate or keep fighting. This one was quite interesting. You see how people react to him as he grows sick and how life slowly drains from him. His thoughts are expressed but the actions around him might not go hand to with hand with them. The Kreutzer Sonata: Did not care much for this one so I'll skip reviewing it. Just remember it deals with the burden of marriage and how it can force a man to not only hatred but hatred coupled with extreme irrational thought. Master and Man: My favorite of the bunch. Simple story of two men trying to get from point A to point B and getting side tracked by a snow storm that keeps pushing them in all but the right direction. All of these stories share common themes: marriage love, hate, struggle, bond, family values, the value of time, and the inevitable coming of death. Obviously this was heavily inspired by Tolstoy's life, but nothing much happens in these stories. It takes a theme and runs with it and it can be as simple in plot as a man and a woman struggling to be on the same page during a dinner conversation. I will most likely read more of this author's work as his stories tend to be real and could be applied to life in any century, not just his. They have timeless messages.

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