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  • The Death of Ivan Ilyich

  • By: Leo Tolstoy
  • Narrated by: Simon Prebble
  • Length: 2 hrs and 35 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (530 ratings)

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The Death of Ivan Ilyich cover art

The Death of Ivan Ilyich

By: Leo Tolstoy
Narrated by: Simon Prebble
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Summary

Hailed as one of the world’s masterpieces of psychological realism, 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?

The first part of the story portrays Ivan Ilyich’s colleagues and family after he has died, as they discuss the effect of his death on their careers and fortunes. In the second part, Tolstoy reveals the life of the man whose death seems so trivial. The perfect bureaucrat, Ilyich treasured his orderly domestic and office routine. Diagnosed with an incurable illness, he at first denies the truth but is influenced by the simple acceptance of his servant boy, and he comes to embrace the boy’s belief that death is natural and not shameful. He comforts himself with happy memories of childhood and gradually realizes that he has ignored all his inner yearnings as he tried to do what was expected of him. Will Ilyich be able to come to terms with himself before his life ebbs away?

This short novel was the artistic culmination of a profound spiritual crisis in Tolstoy’s own life, a nine-year period following the publication of Anna Karenina, during which he wrote not a word of fiction. A thoroughly absorbing glimpse into the abyss of death, it is also a strong testament to the possibility of finding spiritual salvation.

Public Domain (P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic reviews

“Written more than a century ago, Tolstoy’s work still retains the power of a contemporary novel." ( Publishers Weekly)

What listeners say about The Death of Ivan Ilyich

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Loved it’s darkness and realness

The narrator added to the pain of the death very expressively. It’s already been added to my repeat read list.

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insightful, original, enjoyable.

narrator was delightful, the book itself taught many great lessons about life and death - would recommend to anyone looking for a short but interesting story.

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Wonderful

The best novella I ever read. Now it is one of my favorite works of fiction.

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Very well written

This small novel is a bit of a grim listen but an excellent description of the bourgeoisie of certain period in Russia. I found the reading a bit harsh-sounding. However that might be down to personal preference.

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idk

I don't know why, but I really enjoy Tolstoy's stories. This too, although the story felt a little unfinished. Like, why was the family giving the colleague the stink eye? Also, now I really want to know what the ailment was...

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Sobering

Probably one of the best depictions of death in fiction. Tolstoy’s slightly twisted sense of humour shines in his description of the naïve Piotr Ivanovich, and the telepathic dialogue between him and Schwartz.

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WOnderfully Horrifying

usual brilliant Tolstoy imagagining a long and painful ordinary death in minute detail. Well read. Good to read in a morbid mood.

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Utterly wonderful authorship and narration.

A production and source material of the highest quality. Audiobooks don't come better than this.

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Make you think…

No, it really does make you stop and think about your own choices in life.

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Thoughtful and reflective

Such a well written book. Timeless classic on the mortality of the human life. Engaging story telling indeed.

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