Book Review: The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy

“Death is finished,” he said to himself.  “It is no more!”

18386My 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…

His acquaintance…

“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.


His wife…

“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.


His friend…

“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.

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Short Story Review: The Flood by Émile Zola

“Everything was misty. It was the terrified end of a day melting into the night of death.”

the floodMy Rating : *4 Stars*

Depressing, quite depressing.

This story is based on the 1875 flood of the Garonne River in Toulouse, France and as it was reported nearly 3000 lives were lost. This event inspired Zola to write this short story, The Flood, which is set in the village of Saint-Jory.

It’s a story of a seventy-year-old farmer, Louis Roubien, who lives with his family: his brothers, grandchildren, sisters and his children.

Zola tells how Roubien family, after struggling for a very long period of time finally tastes prosperity and become one of the richest family(or maybe the only richest family) in the village. They own vast lands that they use for farming and cattle farms and how they have it all in abundance. When the story begins, it is shown that this is their best year.

To quote Roubien:”For fourteen years I battled with the earth for my daily bread. At last, prosperity smiled on we, and last month I was still the richest farmer in the parish. Our house seemed blessed, happiness resigned here. The sun was our brother, and I cannot recall a bad crop.”

Zola used powerful imagery to describe the beauty of the village, of setting sun and imagery which ensue peace.

“The sky was blue, an immense blue sheet of profound purity, in which the rays of the setting sun were like a golden dust. Never had I seen the village drowsing in so sweet a peace.”

But then the evening transcended to the blind wrath  of nature and it’s beauty turned itself into a devil that brought destruction and death for the villagers.

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Not a very accurate depiction.

And the events that followed it were quite disturbing for me. Death engulfed everyone one by one and throughout the night, they faced loss.

In the hour of darkness, Zola through his story portrays, fear and desperation to get out of the clench of death and how in the hours of destruction individuals show their heroism, and do everything to save their loved ones.

Louis lost his whole family by the break of dawn and he felt the pure loss as a single night took away everything from him: his family, his prosperity, and happiness. And he was so weak that he couldn’t do anything and there he was left all alone mourning his loss.

“Then nothing, nothing, a black pit, oblivion.”

I loved this story and totally worth reading.

You can download it, The Flood.

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Book Review : The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger

  “I don’t exactly know what I mean by that, but I mean it.”

My Rating : *3.5 Stars*

I read this book few years back when I was a kid,and honestly I can remember next to nothing about it, so I thought to read it again. But well at that time I gave this book 5 stars. Okay, let met tell you I read this book when I was sixteen and why I liked this book so much at that time precisely because “I was sixteen!“.

And now I know that I was an IDIOT!

Okay the thing is this book is for people of certain age group, once I was in that phase, and now I’m not. So basically this book lost it’s appeal for me.

If I talk about the character, Holden Caulfield, there are roughly three possibilities that you may come across.

  1. You’ll will say this is so relatable.( 14-16 age group people)
  2. I don’t minimally relate with this bastard.(people aging 26 and above )
  3. Sometimes he’s so relatable and sometimes a total asshole.(people that are 20 something)

Well I come under the third possibility, there are moments when I can still relate with Holden and there are moments in the book where I think what an asshole and also while reading them I felt depressed.

For Holden as everything turns out is lousy, every one is phony and seriously he dislike everything, besides his siblings(he love them a lot, hopefully something he liked in this world).

So when I said I can relate to him is because I also dislike a lot of stuff, and I think most of the things that people enjoy are lousy.(and I maybe an asshole, not very confident)

And when I said that I think he is a total asshole because he think besides him everyone is a phony or a moron and everything other people say is bullshit. And he made his thoughts very clear because he mentioned it in every other page. By the end of the book I wanted to shout at him, that please grow up already.

I’ve read few lines somewhere, and if I would be living in the fictional world of Salinger(which for some reason is even more pathetic than the real one)  and if I come across Holden, then I would totally like to read them for him.

           “Are you surrounded by fools? Are you the only reasonable person around? Then maybe you’re the one with jerkitude.”

           “Everyone is an asshole to somebody.”

And I totally agree with these lines, I do!

Now, the thing is I actually liked the last 30-40 pages, when he meet his sister and the conversation they had, and how she was worried about her brother and how he loved her so much. The way he talked about her every once in a while. I liked that.

Of course there were good parts in the book, there are few quotes that I liked a lot and there are moments when I was actually laughing. Sometimes this book was just funny for me and sometimes totally depressing. But he sure do had a strong voice.

The thing is every human being is broken and we should accept that fact, if you think someone is not perfect, then possibly you are also not perfect for someone.

And for people who think they don’t belong to this world and that this world and the people living here are not perfect. Then do remember…

Oscar Wilde said, “We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell.”

And I think the world is doing its best, night and day to be a better place for us, so I guess we should just enjoy it, shouldn’t be?

Happy Reading!