Leo Tolstoy. 1828 to 1910
Army during the Crimean War, at 20
Since beginning The Reading Life in July 2009 I have read War and Peace, Anna Karenina as well as a few short stories by Leo Tolstoy. Having recently watched an episode of the BBC adoption of War and Peace, I have taken on a desire to read it for the forth time, hopefully this year.
In addition to the major novels, the highly regarded translation team of Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky have published a volume including "The Death of Ivan Illyich" (some treat it as a novella) and ten other short works of fiction.
Ivan Illyich is a moderately successful Russian official working in the judiciary, in the provinces. He is reasonably happy in his marriage, sometimes enjoys the petty power his job gives him, enjoys a good meal and a drink and loves to play cards. He is also dying. No one, especially his wife, wants to acknowledge this. The story is a disturbing very insightful look at the metamorphoses that often accur in a long marriage. Tolstoy has a very deep understanding of the marriage of Ivan and his wife.
We see Ivan trying to come to terms with his mortality. We also learn a good bit about the politics of the life of a judge in Czarist Russia.
This is a very fine work of art, worthy of the world's greatest novelist. If you have been married a while you will be pushed into pondering your relationship. I am so glad I have experienced "The Death of Ivan Illyich".