“Death is finished,” he said to himself. “It is no more!”
My Rating: *4 Stars*
I read this book few days back before going to sleep and I must say that this book made me think a lot.
The only reason I don’t pick up Russian books is because they are fully loaded with Russian names and in the end, I end up calling people whatever name I want to. So, the only name I remember is Ivan Ilych.(I know you don’t have to know this, but it literally sucks.)
So as the title suggests and you can totally make this out that it’s about death of a person named Ivan Ilych.
The theme of this book is Death and just so you know I love reading books that deals with death.
This book makes you think inward and ponder upon the subject of life and death, sure it does. When I started reading it, the tone of the writing was really cold and it does suit the setting that was of a funeral with some slap on the face humor which I wonder was there or it was just an effort made my Tolstoy to bring the readers out of the depressive setting that he created in his book.
Tolstoy did talk about morality and there were few situation where even I gave out a chuckle or two and then I thought how inappropriate it was. He starts with how when someone dies people for a very brief time show their sympathy, they feel a bit sad for the person who died, but they feel more happy for they didn’t, for they are alive and it’s not their time, yet.
I want to quote few lines from the funeral part of the story…
“Schwartz was waiting for him in the adjoining room with legs spread wide apart and both hands toying with his top-hat behind his back. The mere sight of that playful, well-groomed, and elegant figure refreshed Peter Ivanovich. He felt that Schwartz was above all these happenings and would not surrender to any depressing influences.”
Schwartz didn’t give a hoot. He was there just to mark his presence.
“Oh, terribly! He screamed unceasingly, not for minutes but for hours. for the last three days he screamed incessantly. It was unendurable. I cannot understand how I bore it; you could hear him three rooms off. Oh, what I have suffered!”
And then his wife said that she suffered. I ask from what? The screams of her husband that she couldn’t tolerate? OH MY GOD! Reading those lines made me feel worse.
“The service began: candles, groans, incense, tears, and sobs. Peter Ivanovich stood looking gloomily down at his feet. He did not look once at the dead man, did not yield to any depressing influence, and was one of the first to leave the room…
…Peter Ivanovich found the fresh air particularly pleasant after the smell of incense, the dead body, and carbolic acid.”
He just wanted to get out of the awkward situation that he was in, the funeral. So, that at least he can feel happy about his life and that he was alive.
I suffered from all insensitivity these characters showed, made me think for once that how people really do that kind of shit all the time. Some of them feel sad when other people suffer but they feel more happy for themselves because they are all well and fine, then there are few people who don’t give a hoot about anyone, they only think about what they can get out of others suffering, how others suffering can benefit them. And some of them feel relieved that at least it’s all over so that they can move on in life.
Ivan was a nice man, he lived a well to do life, he owned a good house, had a good career, money, a good position in the society and a family. If you look at the surface he had it all. But one day when death announced itself to him, everything came crashing down.
“Ivan Ilych’s life had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible.”
When pain and agony made him question his life, when he looked back in time, he realized he lost all the joy with time and he started questioning life. All that he had was what the society was expecting from him, not necessarily what he wanted out of life.
“False. Everything by which you have lived and live now is all a deception, a lie, concealing both life and death from you.”
“And in imagination he began to recall the best moments of his pleasant life. But strange to say none of those best moments of his pleasant life now seemed at all what they had then seemed—none of them except the first recollections of childhood. There, in childhood, there had been something really pleasant with which it would be possible to live if it could return. But the child who had experienced that happiness existed no longer, it was like a reminiscence of somebody else.
As soon as the period began which had produced the present Ivan Ilych, all that had then seemed joys now melted before his sight and turned into something trivial and often nasty.”
Alone while suffering and waiting for his death he questioned himself and his soul. He saw his life in a different light. He suffered his destruction all alone and died everyday a little thinking that no one really cared to understand his sufferings.
“It can’t be that life is so senseless and horrible. But if it really has been so horrible and senseless, why must I die and die in agony? There is something wrong!”
And then he died and we came to an end.
“Death is finished, he said to himself. It is no more!”
And there it was “The Death of Ivan Ilych”.
It’s a short book but I believe one should read this book, it can be a heavy read for some people but worth reading. Once you’ll start reading it, I’m sure you won’t be able to put it down.