2011年4月27日 星期三

《伊凡‧伊列區之死》托爾斯泰 The Death of Ivan Ilyich

But remember that "simplicity" is a buncombe. (V. Nabokov, On Ivan Ilych's Life by Tolstoy)

Tolstoy's War and Peace / Short Fiction (Norton C...


《伊凡‧伊列區之死》托爾斯泰著 孟祥森譯 (根據 Translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude) 台北:水牛 1969



"俄國大文豪托爾斯泰寫的小說《伊凡‧伊列區之死》裡的情節。故事主角伊凡.伊列區直到「死前」,都可以算作「非常成功」,至少是那種他「自以為是」 的成功!他做到令人欽羨的高等法院檢察長,有一個人人羨慕的漂亮太太,交往的都是聖彼得堡的上流階級和貴族。他聰明伶俐,善於討好長官,立志要在官場裡出 人頭地。出身貧苦的他,平步青雲、財富迅速累積、好不威風得意。





The Death of Ivan Ilyich
Author Leo Tolstoy
Original title Смерть Ивана Ильича, Smert' Ivana Ilyicha'
Illustrator Oto Antonini (1892-1959)
Country Russia
Language Russian
Subject(s) Truth and falsity of life, meaning of life and death
Publication date 1886

The Death of Ivan Ilyich (Russian: Смерть Ивана Ильича, Smert' Ivana Ilyicha), first published in 1886, is a novella by Leo Tolstoy, and is considered to be one of the masterpieces of his late fiction, written shortly after his religious conversion of the late 1870s.[1]

The novella tells the story of the life and death, at the age of 45, of a high-court judge in 19th-century Russia—a miserable husband, proud father, and upwardly-mobile member of Russia's professional class, the object of Tolstoy's unremitting satire. Living what seems to be a good life, his dreadful relationship with his wife notwithstanding, Ivan Ilyich Golovin bangs his side while putting up curtains in a new apartment intended to reflect his family's superior status in society. Within weeks, he has developed a strange taste in his mouth and a pain that will not go away. Numerous expensive doctors—friends of friends of friends—are visited in their surgeries or called to the judge's bedside, but beyond muttering about blind gut and floating kidneys, they can neither explain nor treat his condition, and it soon becomes clear that Ivan Ilyich is dying.

The second half of the novella records his terror as he battles with the idea of his own death. "I have been here. Now I am going there. Where? ... No, I won't have it!"[2] Oppressed by the length of the process, his wife, daughter, and colleagues—even the physicians—decide not to speak of it, but advise him to stay calm and follow doctors' orders, leaving him to wrestle with how this terrible thing could befall a man who has lived so well.[3]

He spends his last three days screaming. He realizes he is "done for, there was no way back, the end was here, the absolute end ..."[4] Two hours before his death, in a moment of clarity, he sees that he has not, after all, lived well, but has lived only for himself. After months of dwelling on his own anguish, he suddenly feels pity for the people he's leaving behind, and hopes his death will set them free. With that thought, his pain disappears. He hears someone say, "He's gone." He whispers to himself, "Death has gone," and draws his last breath.[5]


Plot summary

Ivan Ilyich Golovin, a high court judge in St. Petersburg with a wife and family, lives a carefree life that is "most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible." Like everyone he is aware of, he lives a life spent almost entirely in climbing the social ladder, and his life begins to amass more hypocrisy as it goes on. Enduring life with a wife whom he often finds too demanding, he works his way up to be a magistrate owing to the influence he has over a friend who has just been promoted, focusing more and more on his work as family life becomes more miserable.

While hanging curtains for his new home one day, Ivan Ilyich falls awkwardly and hurts his side. Though he does not think much of it at first, he begins to suffer from a pain in his side. As Ilyich's discomfort increases, his behavior towards his family becomes more irritable. His wife finally insists that he visit a physician. The physician cannot pinpoint the source of his malady, but soon it becomes clear that his condition is terminal. He is brought face to face with his mortality, and realizes that although he knows of it, he does not truly grasp it.

During the long and painful process of death, Ivan dwells on the idea that he does not deserve his suffering because he has lived rightly. If he had not lived a good life, there could be reason for his pain; but he has, so pain and death must be arbitrary and senseless. As he begins to hate his family for avoiding the subject of his death, for pretending he is only sick and not dying, he finds his only comfort in his peasant boy servant Gerasim, the only person in Ivan’s life who does not fear death, and also the only one who, apart from his own son, shows compassion for him. Ivan begins to question whether he has, in fact, lived a good life.

In the final days of his life, Ivan makes a clear split between an artificial life, such as his own, which masks the true meaning of life and makes one fear death, and an authentic life, the life of Gerasim. Authentic life is marked by compassion and sympathy; the artificial life by self-interest. Then “some force” strikes Ivan in the chest and side, and he is brought into the presence of a bright light. His hand falls onto his nearby son’s head, and he pities him. He no longer hates his daughter or wife, but rather feels sorry for them, because he has found at last a joy in authentic life and they will continue their artificial lives, fearing death. In the middle of a sigh, Ivan dies.


Many people have different interpretations for the end of the novella. One such interpretation is that Ivan Ilyich's whole struggle and agony ends with the great gift of a cessation of suffering. Another interpretation is that Ivan Ilyich's breakthrough is the freedom that comes with truth – in his case, seeing the falsity of his life, which enables him to have a brief moment of unselfish love or at least compassion for his wife and children. It can also be interpreted that Ivan did not feel compassion towards his wife, but pity, and saw the truth of humanity in his son, that is, what it meant to be truly human.

In his lectures on Russian literature, Russian-born novelist and critic Vladimir Nabokov argues that, for Tolstoy, a sinful life (such as Ivan's) is moral death. Therefore death, the return of the soul to God is, for Tolstoy, moral life. To quote Nabokov: "The Tolstoyan formula is: Ivan lived a bad life and since the bad life is nothing but the death of the soul, then Ivan lived a living death; and since beyond death is God's living light, then Ivan died into a new life – Life with a capital L."[6]

See also


  1. ^ Jahn 1999, p. 3.
  2. ^ Tolstoy, p. 57.
  3. ^ Tolstoy, p. 61.
  4. ^ Tolstoy, p. 103.
  5. ^ Tolstoy, p. 106.
  6. ^ Nabokov, p. 237


  • Jahn, Gary R. (1999). Tolstoy's the Death of Ivan Ilʹich: A Critical Companion. Northwestern University Press.
  • Nabokov, Vladimir Vladimirovich. Lectures On Russian Literature. Harcourt Edition.
  • Tolstoy, Leo (1886). The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Penguin Red Classic edition, 2006.

External links