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Extended Audio Sample The Death of Ivan Ilyich, by Leo Tolstoy Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (21,157 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Leo Tolstoy Narrator: Simon Prebble Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Written more than a century ago, Tolstoy’s work still retains the power of a contemporary novel.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Considered a masterpiece of psychological realism.”

    Merriam Webster’s Encyclopedia of Literature

  • “Tolstoy’s novella offers a penetrating examination of the Christian faith and the nature of life and death.”

    Audiofile

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Sebastian | 2/20/2014

    " La muerte en su forma mas agoviante y desgarradora, la que minimiza el alma. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by sura | 2/15/2014

    " My favorite book of al time "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Maria | 2/9/2014

    " Characteristically dark in the Russian literary tradition. A lovely meditation on mortality, however, and the way people tend to distance themselves from illness and death. A good read when you are in the mood to ponder the human condition. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by kasia | 2/7/2014

    " Wow. For some reason, I was expecting some kind of cynical plot twist. It totally didn't happen. I just sort of figured there must be something else going on, because this couldn't be _it_. What can I say? I was unimpressed. "

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