Death of Ivan IlichPosted: 2012/05/30
Tolstoy, Count Lev N. Dramatic Works: the Death of Ivan Ilich.Translated by Leo Wiener. New York: AMS Press, 1968.
Death of Ivan Ilich opens with Ilich’s death already a reality in the year of 1882.
As a person struggling with the death of a loved one there were certain parts of Death of Ivan Ilich that struck a nerve with me. Early in the story Ilich’s colleagues are standing around discussing his death, having just learned of it. One man exclaimed, “And here I have not called on him since the holidays. I was meaning to all the time” (p 4). That bears repeating. I was meaning to all the time. Exactly.
I found Death of Ivan Ilich to be extremely psychological and painful. Here is a relatively young man of 45 who dies from an unexplained illness after falling off a chair. He bruises his side and mysteriously falls ill a short time later. Even more troublesome – he never recovers from this fall. Was it cancer? Many scholars seem to think so. What I found particularly disturbing is the lack of care and sympathy his family feels for him. His wife and daughter all but cast him aside once they realize he is dying. Only his long-faithful butler remains true to him.
The actual death of Ivan goes largely unexamined. Instead we crawl into Ivan’s mind as the dying process takes its toll. In the beginning he is indignant, believing as a good man who has led a moral life he does not deserve such a fate. He questions his life’s purpose and begins to compare it to that of his butler. While he never accepts his death at the end he seems to understand it.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Russian Heavies” (p 210).