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February in The Reader's Den: "The Death of Ivan Ilyich"
The Death of Ivan Ilyich (1886) was written by Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) in his mid-career as a rumination on life and death—including the societal norms regarding this and the more inner religious/philosophical meaning of the death of the body and the awakening of the soul.
While the story's subject matter has a heavy tone, it is a short and lively read, whose length is easily completed in a month's time. We are not settling into War and Peace with this story, so it is a wonderful way to introduce ourselves to Tolstoy's writing, as well as 19th century Russian society. Critics say that this short story is well balanced between Tolstoy’s early style of realism, as in Anna Karenina, and the more spiritual or religious tone of his later works.
To find more critical information and reviews, check out Literature Resource Center from our articles and databases links and use the author (Tolstoy) and title (The Death of Ivan Ilyich) as search terms. You may also find the guide Big Read: The Death of Ivan Ilyich, produced by the University of Illinois Library a comprehensive manual to online resources for looking at this short story in greater depth. Several different translations of the story can be found in the Library's catalog and electronically on Google Books and HathiTrust Digital Library.
Please join us in reading and posting comments about the story. And be sure to check back next week for a look at the author and to leave comments on what you have read so far.