The Death of Ivan Ilych

By Leo Tolstoy; Ian Dreiblatt (Translator)
(Melville House, Paperback, 9781933633541, 128pp.)

Publication Date: April 1, 2008

Other Editions of This Title: Paperback, Mass Market Paperback, Mass Market Paperback, Mass Market Paperback, Paperback, Paperback, Paperback, Paperback, Paperback, Paperback

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Description

There is no explanation.

Written eight years after the publication of Anna Karenina—a time during which, despite the global success of his novels, Leo Tolstoy renounced fiction in favor of religious and philosophical tracts—The Death of Ivan Ilych represents perhaps the most keenly realized melding of Tolstoy’s spirituality with his artistic skills.

Here in a vibrant new translation, the tale of a judge who slowly comes to understand that his illness is fatal was inspired by Tolstoy’s observation at his local train station of hundreds of shackled prisoners being sent off to Siberia, many for petty crimes. When he learned that the sentencing judge had died, Tolstoy was roused to consider the judge’s thoughts during his final days—a study on the acceptance of mortality only deepened by the death, during its writing, of one of Tolstoy’s own young children.

The final result is a magisterial story, both chilling and beguiling in the fullness of its empathy, its quotidian detail, and the beauty of its prose, and is, as many have claimed it to be, one of the most moving novellas ever written.

The Art of The Novella Series

Too short to be a novel, too long to be a short story, the novella is generally unrecognized by academics and publishers. Nonetheless, it is a form beloved and practiced by literature's greatest writers. In the Art Of The Novella series, Melville House celebrates this renegade art form and its practitioners with titles that are, in many instances, presented in book form for the first time.




About the Author

Leo Tolstoy was born into the upper levels of the Russian aristocracy (his mother was a princess) in 1828. After a licentious youth, he joined the army to fight in the Crimean War, and published his first novel, Childhood, while serving in an artillery unit. After participating in some of the deadliest battles of the century, such as the Siege of Sebastopol, he quit the military in disgust. But the experience proved the inspiration for some of his greatest writing, including Sebastopol Sketches and War and Peace. After the war, he traveled throughout Europe but was disillusioned by Western materialism and returned to his family estate, Yasnaya Polyana. There, he married, fathered 13 children, founded a school for young peasants, and wrote Anna Karenina. But in 1879 Tolstoy underwent a spiritual crisis, and denounced the Orthodox church, private property, and the demands of the flesh. His extreme asceticism inspired a widespread, cult-like worship, but it also exacerbated a decades-long tension with his wife, Sofia. In 1910, after an argument with her, he fled the estate, only to die shortly thereafter at the nearby railroad station.

Ian Dreiblatt translates from the Russian, Latin, Yiddish, and Amharic. His previous work includes translations of Mandelstam, Dragomoshchenko, and Catullus.




Praise For The Death of Ivan Ilych

"I wanted them all, even those I'd already read."
—Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

"Small wonders."
Time Out London

"[F]irst-rate…astutely selected and attractively packaged…indisputably great works."
—Adam Begley, The New York Observer

"I’ve always been haunted by Bartleby, the proto-slacker. But it’s the handsomely minimalist cover of the Melville House edition that gets me here, one of many in the small publisher’s fine 'Art of the Novella' series."
The New Yorker

"The Art of the Novella series is sort of an anti-Kindle. What these singular, distinctive titles celebrate is book-ness. They're slim enough to be portable but showy enough to be conspicuously consumed—tiny little objects that demand to be loved for the commodities they are."
—KQED (NPR San Francisco)

"Some like it short, and if you're one of them, Melville House, an independent publisher based in Brooklyn, has a line of books for you... elegant-looking paperback editions ...a good read in a small package."
The Wall Street Journal

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