The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories, by Leo Tolstoy
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The Death of Ivan Ilyich tells the story of the final months of one man: an ordinary, reasonably prosperous, and successful middle-aged Russian judge.
An apparently trivial injury (he hurts his side in a fall from a chair while hanging curtains in his new apartment) quickly develops into something worse. Doctors offer all kinds of diagnoses, medicines, and guarded reassurance, but within weeks, Ivan Ilyich can see that he is a dying man, confronted with agony, indignity, and loneliness.
It is only a young servant, Gerasim, with all of Tolstoy’s favorite peasant virtues, who can look the processes of dying in the eye and care for his master with true humanity.
The Death of Ivan Ilyich demands that readers reflect on what the inevitability of death means to us, and on how we shall face our own end.
Tolstoy is able to impart his philosophy that success as it is judged by society, such as Ivan Ilyich's, comes at a great moral cost and if one decides to pay this cost, life will become hollow and insincere and therefore worse than death.
This book is considered to be one of the finest examples of a novella.