The Death of Ivan Ilyich & Other Stories, Paperback Book

The Death of Ivan Ilyich & Other Stories Paperback

Part of the Wordsworth Classics series

4 out of 5 (2 ratings)


With an Introduction and Notes by Dr T.C.B.Cook. Count Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) is best known for War and Peace and Anna Karenina, commonly regarded as amongst the greatest novels ever written.

He also, however, wrote many masterly short stories, and this volume contains four of the longest and best in distinguished translations that have stood the test of time. In the early story Family Happiness, Tolstoy explores courtship and marriage from the point of view of a young wife.

In The Kreutzer Sonata he gives us a terrifying study of marital breakdown, in The Devil a powerful depiction of the power of sexual temptation, and, in perhaps the finest of all, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, he portrays the long agony of a man gradually coming to terms with his own mortality. This volume also includes an Introduction and Notes written specially for this Wordsworth edition by Dr Tim Cook, formely lecturer in literature at the Universities of Kingston and Ulster.

Previous work contributed by Dr Cook for Wordsworth includes an introduction and notes to Charles Dickens' Nicholas Nickleby.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Wordsworth Editions Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • ISBN: 9781840224535

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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

Not a book to read if you are depressed but a powerful story of a man's evaluation of his life as he lies dying.

Review by

A very good collection of short stories, worthy as an introduction to Tolstoy for those who aren't ready to tackle War and Peace or Anna Karenina. They have much to say about the human condition, the nature of love and desire, marriage, family relationships and death, and as such have relevance for readers in many countries and cultures. Family Happiness is probably the least good of the quartet, lacking the passion and drama of the other three stories. It is a study of the changing nature of love in the marriage between a young girl and an older man (though he is only in his late 30s!). The Death of Ivan Ilyich is one I have just read separately, so I did not re-read it in this collection. For the sake of completeness here though: this concerns the thoughts and feelings of a man towards his family and those around him as he gets progressively more ill and is then dying from a wasting disease that sounds like cancer. The opening chapters are quite light-hearted with some ruefully amusing reflections on marriage and attitudes towards ones career, but then the mood becomes much darker and he ends being cynical about his family, seeing them as wishing his death to come sooner so they can be free of the burden of caring for him. The Kreutzer Sonata is a very powerful story about the breakdown of a marriage, with some very advanced for the time (1889) views on how marriages evolve and how couples can grow to take each other for granted and eventually become actively hostile without wanting to grow apart. Tolstoy's postscript, published following the banning of the story in Russia and elsewhere, and concerning the moral superiority of celibacy, somewhat detracts from the dramatic impact of the ending, though. The Devil is a powerful tale about how a nobleman's passion for the object of a former fling with a peasant wife destroys his seemingly happy marriage through obsession. There are two endings, the published one where he kills himself and the alternative one where he kills the object of his obsession. An excellent collection, some of the best Russian literature of its type.

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