Monday, May 12, 2008

The Death of Ivan Ilyich

So now that I'm finished with school for a bit, I've enjoyed the chance to do a little bit of personal pleasure reading. Unfortunately, my latest read, The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy was somewhat less than pleasurable.

As a bit of background, I actually like Tolstoy. While I haven't tackled Crime and Punishment, Anna Karenina is a family favorite, especially for Jason. When we found out that Champaign was participating in a community-wide "Big Read" of The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Jason and I were so excited that we checked out two copies from the public library--his and hers. I thought it was the neatest idea that our entire community should unite in reading Tolstoy while a community somewhire in Russia united by reading Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird.

In theory, I still think it's a good idea, but in practice, I think they should rethink the selection. Seriously, The Death of Ivan Ilyich was one of the most depressing, bleak, and hopeless depictions of mortality that I have ever read. The take-home message is exactly what the billboards around town state--"Ivan Ilyich is dead, but you're not" (Thank Heavens).

On the positive side, Tolstoy's work really does cause you to reflect on whether or not you're truly living the real thing or missing the boat entirely in the meaningless quest for power and prestige. The Death of Ivan Ilyich smacks you in the face with the inevitability of death--long, painful, and lonely as it may be. While I may not agree with his views on the senselessness of death, I concord with Tolstoy's conclusion that since we're all going to die anyway, let's live life now to its fullest.


Jackie said...

I'll take your word for it - you seem to have a good sense for good books. I'm just barely into The Bean Tree by the way... :)
I read something funny in the RD today - a boy in the library passed a book and asked dad "Do they really tell you how to?" dad says, "How to what?" boy says "How to Kill A Mockingbird?"

Summer said...

I love Tolstoy. I'm reading Anna Karenina right now and kept put it down. I love his style of writing. What a shame this one wasn't as great.