"Death is over," he said to himself. See, I had mistakenly given up on the masters of Russian literature due to the struggles I had reading a particular novel (Im looking at you Brothers Karamazov!), assuming they were all inaccessible and there was no point in expending anymore energy trying to make sense of books with characters that go by 3 different names and waaaaaaah the end. Ivan Ilyich is a decent man. Tolstoy describes Ivan Ilyichs failing health in such a way that the reader can almost FEEL what it was like for him. We get the briefest of glimpses of what it must be like for a man on the brink of death. He finds that this is not the end of life, but the end of death.
Just as Tolstoy's discovery of the true meaning of life led him to fulfillment and an acceptance of death, Ivan Ilych's awakening comes through the realization of death which ignites within him fear, anger, contemplation and eventually acceptance. The character Ivan Illych belonged to an elite social circle.He was intrigued by the idea of being a member of the elite aristocratic society, and individuals who did not conform to the social circle were looked on with disgust.He was unaware however, that his life was an illusion brought upon a need to imitate a certain social class rather than to find true individuality. The remainder of the novel deals with the life, as opposed to the title of Ivan Ilych's death.
All Ivan Ilyich has is the simple, unschooled manservant with the good heart who doesn't want his master to die alone and afraid. Ivan Ilych progresses through the endless scream of 'Why me?" to where he is almost at the end.
My unscholarly response is that they are both masters of exploring the most recondite crevices of the human mind and the existential angst that is inherent in its nature; they describe the undescribable, recreate death and grief unflinchingly and make the reader be racked in pain by both. And so following the thread of my pensive mood I remembered the unfinished review of Tolstoys novella that I have been meaning to revise for months on end unsuccessfully, not finding the appropriate words, not feeling satisfied with what I had written, which I enclose below: ***** Do we really know what death entails? The Death of Ivan Ilych confronts the reader with his own mortality. Ivan looks death in the eye with more frustration than fear, dumbfounded that his life might be reduced to a trivial list of actions performed by an absurd sense of duty making of his time in this world even less than an anecdote. Despite the heartfelt compassion that Ivan perceives in his sons glance, as the young, untainted boy takes his lifeless hand, Death places her cold, blindfolded kiss and presses her finger upon the mans lips, sealing them forever, and I, uninvited outsider, shaken and teary, get a sour taste of what dying feels like.
En poco más de cien páginas Tolstói nos deja un legado, una enseñanza y un modo de mirar o de intentar comprender a la muerte, si es que existe algún método para ello. En cierto modo, algunos aspectos de lo que le sucede a Iván Illich también concuerda con la vida personal de Tolstói que también tuvo cortocircuitos con su esposa durante su matrimonio (otro momento álgido el la relación fue durante la publicación de otra de sus famosas novelas, me refiero a "La sonata a Kreutzer") y también se relaciona con su propia muerte, dado que él también confesaba que la muerte lo atemorizaba. Se llama Iván, que en ruso es uno de los hombres más comunes (significa Juan) y el mismo Tolstói lo aclara con sus propias palabras: "Una descripción de la simple muerte de un hombre simple, realizada por él mismo". Ese Iván es un hombre simple y en el fondo ese Iván somos todos los hombres simples que este planeta para un día emigrar hacia otro estado. Confieso que yo también le tuve siempre temor a la muerte y la forma en la que Tolstói relata los dolores y sufrimientos de los últimos días de Iván Illich me remite directamente a los de mis padres, a quienes perdí en poco más de cinco meses entre ambas muertes. En el caso de Iván Illich todo el proceso, desde la declarAción de los síntomas hasta el inevitable final, además de la retrospectiva que tanto autor como personaje llevan adelante, es ocupado por la muerte como tema dominante.
It is a widespread stereotype that Russian classics are mostly long, tedious, boring, a burden to get through, but one only needs to read a short book like The Death of Ivan Ilych in order to be proven wrong. A philosophical, in its beautiful writing almost lyrical account of a dying man's life, Tolstoy will make you think about your own mortality, about happiness, sorrow and most likely your own life as well. Tolstoy uses his protagonist to help us realize how we all have to die one day, and there will surely be readers who, just like Ivan Ilych, always thought of death as something foreign they wouldn't have to worry about until a long time later.
Wanting an introduction to Tolstoy prior to reading this epic, I decided upon Ivan Ilyich as my gateway to his more celebrated work. I found Tolstoy's writing style accessible, which should ease the way for me to read his longer works. The part I found the most interesting was how Tolstoy through Ivan Ilyich discussed his views on death and dying, which is the premise of this story.
Later in life, he also wrote plays and essays.