The subject of this well-known Tolstoy novella is a high court judge in St. Petersburg who lives a carefree life. One day, without warning, he is beset by pains and soon has to come to terms with the fact that he is going to die. The judge has to learn to face death without fear and yet feel compassion for the family he is leaving behind.
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Tolstoy's novella offers a penetrating examination of the Christian faith and the nature of life and death. Listeners will also be sure to delight in Tolstoy's sharp and sometimes satirical eye for the very modern-sounding details of the life of a nineteenth-century Russian bureaucrat. With masterful ease, a warm tone, and conversational pacing, British actor Oliver Davies captures Ivan Ilyich's preoccupation with interior decorating and debt and his avoidance of family weddings and home remedies. Then the shadow of death wipes away all trivialities and pretense. This work's prose and performance are so vivid, so human, and so listenable that there's no doubt why Tolstoy stands as one of the giants of world literature.
"Davies' skill with inflection, even within words, heightens the social satire of the early section and shifts with Ilyich's slide into ever increasing pain and irritability." (
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