Books of Note 2017: WEEK # 1 – The Death of Ivan Ilyich


Yes. I started my 2017-52-book-challenge in week one of January and I started with a good one: The Death of Ivan Ilyich, a Novella by Leo Tolstoy himself. It is a late work of Tolstoy and, well, not exactly an uplifting read but very deep and thoughtful.

It took me only 3 hours to read the 88 pages and I guess the more experienced readers among you could read it easily in less than 2 hours max. And you should.

Interestingly enough one of my personal favourite Akira Kurosawa movies, Ikiru from 1955, is loosely based on this book. One master influenced another. As Woody Allen said: “If you steal, steal from the best”. Kurosawa´s movie is more positive though in the end.

A reminder on our Mortality

Back to the Death of Ivan Ilyich.

What it is about:

It is a bout a man who realises only on his deathbed that he lived a meaningless life.

Why it matters:

I guess most of Tolstoy´s work matters. This novella in particular reminds us that we are all mortal and should check from time to time if our life has a meaning to avoid deep regrets and misery at the end.

Favourite Sentences:

“There also the further back he looked the more life there had been. There had been more of what was good in life and more of life itself. The two merged together. “Just as the pain went on getting worse and worse, so my life grew worse and worse,” he thought.

What others said:

„Tolstoy’s book is about many things: the tyranny of bourgeois niceties, the terrible weak spots of the human heart, the primacy and elision of death. But more than anything, I would offer, it is about the consequences of living without meaning, that is, without a true and abiding connection to one’s life“ – Psychologist Mark Freeman –


Agreed, Mark.

That´s it. Good read. Makes you think. In story terms there is very little external action, which is compensated by a deep inner thought process of the book´s protagonist.

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