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The Death of Ivan Ilych l Leo Tolstoy / RAC 2023-24

This guide is designed to support the Reading Across Campus



The Death of Ivan Ilyich[1], by Leo Tolstoy

The Book:

Leo Tolstoy is the author of two of the most acclaimed novels ever written, War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1878). These hefty tomes have been adapted, innumerable times, as TV mini-series and feature-length films, with recent productions including War and Peace by the BBC, in 2016, with James Norton, Paul Dano, and Lily James, and Anna Karenina by Universal Pictures, in 2013, with Keira Knightly and Jude Law. The Death of Ivan Ilyich, on the other hand, is not a favorite with filmmakers, whether on the small or large screen. Its length (50-60 pages in most print editions), lends itself more handily to audio books and podcasts. Like The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, the RAC book from two years ago, it is considered to be a novella, rather than a novel, and therefore more amenable to the classroom. Originally published in 1886, in Russian, it has since been reprinted, both autonomously and as the lead-off story in several collections of Tolstoy’s short fiction, including those by Penguin and Signet. The first English translation, by Constance Gale Garnett, appeared in 1902. The book was written shortly after Tolstoy’s religious conversion, when, Hamlet-like, he began to question whether there was any point to life at all.  [See section below on The Death of Ivan Ilyich on film.] [1] Ilyich is spelled with or without the lower case i: Ilyich/Ilych.