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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Book Review: The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck

“You know how advice is – you only want it if it agrees with what you wanted to do anyways.”

4796My Rating: *5 Stars*

I started reading this book yesterday and finished it a few hours back. It’s raining in here, a lot, I mean a lot and it’s cold. Now that rain stopped, strong winds are blowing and I can’t sleep because when I closed the windows, the wind started making spooky noises and now that when I opened them, the sound is so relaxing, you know the sound of wind blowing through palm trees.

So, again I don’t feel like sleeping and I’m constantly thinking about the book and this book gave me this unsettling feeling that won’t let me sleep. You know the feeling you get after you read a thought-provoking novel, yes that.

This book is beautiful, and that is some great writing right there. Steinbeck is what I would like to call a true literary genius. I haven’t read his other books and this is the first one, but already I’m his admirer. I think this is a finely crafted book.

As I read this book, I came across many little but profound messages, throughout the book, and they were easy to decipher and relate with, and strong enough to stir thoughts into the reader’s mind. Steinbeck, as it turns out, is not only a literature writer but also a philosopher and you can easily identify that while reading the book. This novel came out in the 1960s and before that he already got some of his best literary work published like “The Grapes of Wrath” and “East of Eden”, I haven’t read them but now after reading this book I’m surely gonna read them. But I’m gonna say that this story is wonderfully told and well structured, but for some unknown reason it is quite often overlooked and I think people should read it. One of my friend on Goodreads said that this book is quite different from his other books.

Now if we come to the story, the synopsis says, Ethan Allen Hawley, the protagonist of Steinbeck’s last novel, works as a clerk in a grocery store that his family once owned. With Ethan no longer a member of Long Island’s aristocratic class, his wife is restless, and his teenage children are hungry for the tantalizing material comforts he cannot provide. Then one day, in a moment of moral crisis, Ethan decides to take a holiday from his own scrupulous standards.

You might have got some idea what this is about. This book, The Winter of Our Discontent, is based on the subject of morality, or more appropriately how morality plays its role in American society, it’s prevalence in 1960’s. It’s an exploration of morality in an individual, in a society. And I think, it still exists in today’s society.

I loved the character of Ethan and all the other characters were also easy to understand. From the beginning itself you can find Ethan as a content person, he did lost his family property(because of a bad business decision, not made by him) and didn’t get to enjoy all taste of money that he could. But in his heart, he was always a content person, a happy person. Always did good and did everything to make his family secure(that is enough to ask). Throughout the book he also talked about many intelligent books and you can see that he is a smart person and can do a lot more and deserve more and that he can be more than a grocery clerk.

But as it turns out when we live in a society many things go into our heads, we want all the luxury and money our neighbors are enjoying or society is enjoying, people can’t keep their heads high up for the simple reason, that they think they are not worthy enough because of the lack of wealth or a respected job.

His family’s discontentment became his discontentment. As a provider, he wanted to provide them everything. Society and friends told him that he could be much more than he is. People told him, if he wants to be successful he have to break some rules to turn it all up for himself, and that sometimes we have to lose our morals to get what we want.

All this discontentment made him do something for himself and his family, day by day little events changed him, he came up with plans(that you would be reading) and you’ll see how everything he planned for fitted altogether. The book has this gray shady setting and sometimes it’s unsettling.

And you can see all this in our society, that a job these days is not just a simple job, it is much more, there is a huge competition, people make other people fall just to go one step ahead and people want to make it big. And no one can disagree with it, it’s everywhere.

Okay, I really want you to read it because this is something worth reading. There are some really good underlying messages and I think you should read it because I can go on and on.

Happy Reading!

[Written on 21st August 2016 at 3:20 A.M.]