The Death of Ivan Ilyich

Ivan“Ivan Ilyich’s life had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible.” ~ Leo Tolstoy 

Probably my favorite book of all time is “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” by Leo Tolstoy, published in 1886. I generally love all classic Russian literature, and I have read this one several times as it is a short “novella” of just about 130 pages.

It is the story of Ivan Ilyich, who is a high court judge in the late 1800s. Ivan, who enjoys superior status in society, has fallen into what ironically many people today fall into, which is an addiction to the “material things” of this world. The story portrays Ivan as more and more consumed with how he is viewed by society, in terms of his position and his material things. And then suddenly what was so important to him becomes meaningless in an instant!

An ironic but tragic accident befalls Ivan, and sadly, it is not until he is on his deathbed that he realizes his life’s folly. He suddenly sees that all he has gained in his position and material things (all of which are meaningless now) were at the expense of love and meaningful relationships with family and  friends.

What I find most fascinating is the fact that more than a century ago, Leo Tolstoy experienced and wrote about the same disturbing degree of materialism, wealth, and status that we see everywhere around us today.

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