The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy
Cover Concept by Lorenzo Princi, 12 January 2012

The Death of Ivan Ilych

Author: Leo Tolstoy

Reviewed by Lorenzo Princi

Have you ever dreamt of running into a large crowd for safety but realise that no one acknowledges you, all the while the terror which is chasing you gets closer and closer? This feeling of isolation within a crowd swept through me as I read Tolstoy's novella. The horror for Ivan Ilych is terrifying; we learn at the beginning that he is dead and the book then goes back in time and recounts the events in his life leading up to his death.

It isn't long after Ivan gets ill that he realises he won't get better; though showing little compassion, he is presented with cure after cure for his illness by those around him. However the longer it goes on, the more he see through the lies told of his recover and the dark realisation comes over him, that they are all just waiting for him to die and be done with the burden rather than to see him recover. His wife is ready to get compensation from the state and his peers are all ready to pounce on his high position.

Tolstoy compresses the story to key points in Ivan's life and also quickens the pace by shortening the chapters as it draws closer to the end. This device gives us the feeling of the world collapsing around Ivan as he spirals to his death. As a reader we realise that there is no time for the dying in this world and so the living fear it and won't accept it.

Short, sharp, pointed and redeeming despite its somewhat horrific themes, this is a readable book that does give us a light at the end of a dark tunnel.