The Death of Ivan Ilych and Other Stories (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

The Death of Ivan Ilych and Other Stories (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)


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The Death of Ivan Illych and Other Stories, by Elizabeth Gaskell, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:
  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

Chief among Tolstoy’s shorter works is The Death of Ivan Ilych, a masterful meditation on the act of dying. The first major fictional work published by Tolstoy after a mid-life psychological crisis, this novella reflects the author’s struggle to find meaning in life, a challenge Tolstoy resolved by developing a religious philosophy based on brotherly love, mutual support, and charity. These guiding principles are the dominant moral themes in The Death of Ivan Ilych, an account of the spiritual conversion of a judge—an ordinary, unthinking, vulgar man—in the face of his terrible fear about death.

Also included in this volume are Family Happiness, an early work that traces the arc of a marriage; The Kreutzer Sonata, a frank tale of sexual love that shocked readers when it first appeared; and Hadji Murád, Tolstoy’s final masterpiece about power politics, intrigue, and colonial conquest.

David Goldfarb teaches Polish, Russian, and Comparative Literature at Barnard College and Columbia University. He has written about Witold Gombrowicz, Bruno Schulz, Zbigniew Herbert, Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, Mikhail Lermontov, and Nikolai Gogol.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781593080693
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Publication date: 01/01/2004
Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 34,452
Product dimensions: 5.18(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

A Russian author of novels, short stories, plays, and philosophical essays, Count Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) was born into an aristocratic family and is best known for the epic books War and Peace and Anna Karenina, regarded as two of the greatest works of Russian literature. After serving in the Crimean War, Tolstoy retired to his estate and devoted himself to writing, farming, and raising his large family. His novels and outspoken social polemics brought him world-wide fame.

Date of Birth:

September 9, 1828

Date of Death:

November 20, 1910

Place of Birth:

Tula Province, Russia

Place of Death:

Astapovo, Russia


Privately educated by French and German tutors; attended the University of Kazan, 1844-47

Read an Excerpt

From David Goldfarb's Introduction to The Death of Ivan Ilych and Other Stories

The continued popularity of Leo Tolstoy's story "The Death of Ivan Ilych" perhaps owes as much to the author's ability to sympathize with the bad choices his eponymous hero makes as to the fact that this protagonist represents a class still in existence to this day—an upwardly mobile middle class whose members will attend the university and read stories by Tolstoy and will recognize Ivan Ilych as a character they have met, perhaps in their own circle of acquaintances, in their family, or even within themselves. Tolstoy's success in conveying the psychological reality of his characters is not exclusive to his portrayal of Ivan Ilych. It is not uncommon to hear male readers say that they feel they know Anna Karenina as well as they know their own wives, or for contemporary female readers to say that they sympathize with Anna and identify with her in some ways. Though many readers would ascribe genius to Tolstoy, this acuity of psychological perception did not develop without practice.

The forms of the short story, novella, letter, and diary, which offered Tolstoy the possibility for greater narrative experimentation than did long works like Anna Karenina or War and Peace, provided a field for this practice. Written throughout his life, the stories offer some insight into the development of Tolstoy's ideas over time, while the long works, though broad in scope, provide only two snapshots of Tolstoy's evolution as a thinker and writer of fiction. The nineteenth century was generally a very dynamic period in the development of Russian prose forms, as writers reacted to the neoclassicism of the late eighteenth century and attempted to create a prose style that was modern and European but still distinctively Russian and not simply derivative. In an age dominated by realism, experimentation was not merely about style, but about truth in the representation of reality and in the critique of social reality. Where direct political criticism was stifled by tsarist censorship, literature and literary criticism often took its place. For Tolstoy it might be said that this critique is manifested in both the content and in the practice of writing fiction and in his ever-present question "How to live?" The process of writing for Tolstoy provides a means of understanding the subjective feeling of the reality of another person's existence and conveying that feeling to readers, thus creating a bond between the character and readers through the words of the author. Tolstoy's practice of psychological observation and the practice of fiction constitute a spiritual and social practice of forging unity among individuals.

The axis of the most pervasive disunity among individuals in nineteenth-century Russia and beyond is that of gender. Of Tolstoy's stories, the early "Family Happiness" and the late "The Kreutzer Sonata," provide distinct perspectives from which to evaluate Tolstoy's views on "the woman question." "Family Happiness" appeared in 1859, only four years before Nikolai Chernyshevsky's Fourierist novel, What Is to Be Done? This radical, utopian novel proposed the abolition of marriage and the establishment of communes, envisioned a future in which happiness would be guaranteed by technology, and regarded material comfort as the basis for human motivation. By this time Russian women pursued education and had even begun to enter medical school, first by traveling abroad and eventually in Russia itself. Science introduced new methods of contraception and abortion and new views on human sexuality that did not always coincide with traditional religious teachings.

In order to best understand modern life as a woman might experience it, in "Family Happiness" Tolstoy takes the bold step of attempting a first-person narrative in a woman's voice—the story is his only work in this form. As the family was then still the main sphere of women's activity, the problem of "domestic happiness" (as the title may alternately be translated) provides an avenue to most of the issues associated with the woman question, as well as questions about love, the nature of happiness, and what it means to "live for others," which will recur in all of Tolstoy's work. The prose, which evolved from letters between Tolstoy and his friend Valeriya Vladimirovna Arseneva, resembles that of a letter written from the perspective of a woman who has been married and had her first child—written perhaps to a younger woman of the age that the narrator is at the beginning of the story. The letters to Arseneva, which contain a fictional account of a romance between two invented characters, gave the author an opportunity not only to debate important social questions, but to test his ear, to write in a woman's voice that a woman would find believable. The choice of a quasi-epistolary voice is significant in that the sentimental romances that Tolstoy frequently criticizes were often written in the epistolary form or as a narrative in which letters played a significant role. The challenge for Tolstoy here is to write a kind of epistle that is believable and neither sentimental nor a parody of the sentimental epistolary novel in the manner of Dostoevsky's Poor Folk.

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The Death of Ivan Ilych and Other Stories (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
natashaharwood More than 1 year ago
 I enjoyed this short story for one key reason; Leo Tolstoy wrote it in a way that it can be applied to anyone dealing with the hardships associated with life. The story is set in Russia in the late 1800s, but aside from a few subtle hints, such as the use of a carriage instead of a modern automobile, there is no indication that the events surrounding Ivan Ilych did not happen a year ago to the person who lives down the street. Much like the time and place, the events of the story can be applied to anyone and everyone. Ivan Ilych falls ill with an unknown disease, one could say that the disease was unknown because of the timeframe and a lack of advances in medicine, but the fact that no one knows what he is suffering from makes it possible for him to be ill with any disease; perhaps he has cancer, kidney failure, or even depression. Due to the vague nature of the plot, the story is universal, allowing all who read it to gain something from the story. In the end, its universality makes The Death of Ivan Ilych a great story full of insight and wisdom that anyone can find a little piece of themselves in.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Had to read this in college. So glad I did. I was surprised to find a gem.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great collection of stories. The Death of Ivan Ilych is my favorite. It flows very well and is never boring nor anti climatic. I liked Ivans character very much and was disappointed when the story ended. Other stories were fun too.
NativeRoses on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Exquisitely crafted short stories. One of a small list of books i'll re-read. Ivan Ilych doesn't waste a word in illuminating the soul's contents. Brilliant flashes of humor throughout lighten the agony.
jwhenderson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Reading this short novel reminded me of some of the existentialist works that I have read and studied over the years. Tolstoy's meditation on the death of an everyman, 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. 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. In addition to The Death of Ivan Ilych this volume also includes the stories: The Kreutzer Sonata, Hadji Murad, and Family Happiness.
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I give Tolstoy five stars for his stories but Barnes and Noble gets low ratings for this review. I'm not sure which stories are included here. I guess I will have to go to the store to figure it out.
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I love Tolstoy, but had forgotten when I bought this that most of Tolstoy's shorter works are from his late--and very Christian--period. Not my cup of tea. Ivan Ilych is a gem, of course. But the rest just doesn't come close to that standard.
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