Review: “The Death of Ivan Ilyich”

Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013

Roll: 1,1. Result: Review, Book.

The Death of Ivan Ilyich

by Leo Tolstoy (translated by Lynn Solotaroff)

I have nothing but the utmost respect for this book. At 83 small pages, it’s a tiny thing, especially by Tolstoy’s standards, but it presents the most visceral experience of death’s true and utter revelation that I think I will ever know. I don’t remember when I got it, or how, but I do know it kept me up very late into the night when I had not planned on staying up at all; I read the whole thing and then lay there on my bed for another hour absorbing it all. It was the closest I came to fully grasping the true nature of death since I realized, when I was much younger, that death was the end of all experience and that that meant that I could not imagine a moment beyond my own life’s end. In words, I fail to explain or capture the nature of the revelation, but it is vast and powerful; however, where I fail, Tolstoy succeeds, and that is why “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” is my favorite book of all time.

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