Lives and Deaths essential stories by Leo Tolstoy

Lives and Deaths essential stories by Leo Tolstoy

Russian Fiction

Translator – Boris Dralyuk

Source – review copy

It has been 8 years since I read the new translation of War and Peace by Tolstoy so when I was offered the chance to review a collection of stories by the master that revolved around life and death. I couldn’t say no when I was offered the chance to read these for new translations from Boris Dralyuk. The stories are mainly from later in his writing life the earliest is from 1859 the latest is from 1905. The main story in the collection is the Death of Ivan Ilyich a novella the pother three stories in the collection are Three deaths, pace-setter, and Alyosha the pot. all center around death.

The announcement was bordered in  black ” It is with deepest sorrow that Praskoyva FyodofovnaGolovina informs relatives and friends of the demise of her beloved spouse, Member of the appellate court Ivan Ilyich Golovin, which occured on 4TH Febuary 1882. The funeral will be held on friday at one o’clock in the afternoon”

Ivan Ilyich had been a collgue of the assembled gentlemen, well liked by all of them. He had been ill for several weeks; they had heard the illness was incurable.His position had been kept open, but itwas assumed that, in the event of his death, Alekseyev would be appointed to replace him.

The opening of Ivan Ilyich that sees him=s death notice and we then see what haopened in the weeks before.

Well,  the main part of this collection is the Death of Ivan Ilyich. Ivan is a Judge and has a settled life the story opens with people reading a notice of his death but then we see the events that lead to his death. He has just moved into a new house when he has a fall and gets pain on his left side, Then he starts to have a bad taste in his mouth as he gets worse one of his friends Peter sees his friend is getting worse. His wife Praskovya is well to put it one way more of a lady who lunches and has her own life and is only trouble when Ivan’s illness affects their activities together. Ivan questions after he gets the word from the doctor that he is going to die why it is happening to him. We have the three deaths of a noblewoman a lady is traveling on a coach and at the posting station is seen by a doctor who says she won’t make it home but she wants to be home to die. Uncle Hvedor an old coachman is dying in the common room of the posting station. we have a tree dying as the third death. The Pacesetter is set in a stable and told from the point of view of the horses in the yard. Then the last story Alyosha the pot about a quiet young man called the pot after he broke a pot when he was a youth and is a meek soul.

Alyosha was the younger brother. They nicknamed him Pot because one day his mother sent him to the deacon’s wife with a pot of milk, but he stumbled and fell, and the pot broke. His mother gave him a whipping and the boys teased hom, called him “Pot” .The nickname stuck – Alyosha the Pot

Alyosha was a thin little felow, with lop-ears (His ears were like wings), with a big nose. The boys used to teasehim, shouting “Alyosha’s nose is like a dog on a hill” There was a school in the village, but Alyosha didn’t have much time for it

THe youg mannamed pot is a meek young man in his lfe.

I hadn’t read Ivan Ilyich before so was pleased to have read this new translation from a Judge that in many ways his life with a wife that is caught up in her own world and a man that has maybe been to up himself that hadn’t seen his impending death coming it brings up the question of what our lives are valued for and even we think we may be entitled to live longer that is not always the collection the other stories show three different deaths from the highest and lowest of society to that of a tree. Then we have the goings-on of a  stable told from the horse point of view his imagining of their social world is interesting then the quiet Alyosha life is summed up in a mere ten -pages. The stories show how he viewed death change from the earliest story three deaths which were written nearly thirty years earlier than the other works the later maybe shows how when we get to view death differently the older we get.

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