Daily Archives: February 9, 2013

The Death of Ivan Ilych: Read Feb 09, 2013

As I started reading this I assumed the story would be about everyone’s reaction to the death of their ‘friend’. Tolstoy does such a great job of highlighting the selfishness of people and how wrapped up they can be even in the death of their ‘friend’ that I figured he would carry that thru-line all the way to the end.

And that’s what he did, only by backtracking and giving us a look at Ivan through the course of his life and miserable death.

Tolstoy really had it in for the ‘middle-class’ in this story. He saw them as unimaginative, hangers-on, helpless, and in love with the little power that they were allowed to possess. He sees their dreams as mundane, their routines little more than rat-like, and their fate horrible. In fact, were this story not conceived and written by a great master of literature, I could easily see a similar theme being explored by a teenager in high-school; such is the disdain for (the 19th Russian equivalent of) ‘suburbia’.

Luckily, we’re instead treated to a masterpiece of well thought-out and brilliantly realized storytelling.

The death scene is something that is remarkable and terrifying that I actually felt a little closer to understanding what death could be like just from reading this. Anyone who reads this and does not question their own mortality and the point of their own existence should get their wandering kidneys examined.

The Overcoat: Read on February 9, 2013

The Overcoat is my introduction to Gogol and I’m very excited to read his other works. I have to admit that there is a strong comparison to be made between this story and the works of Kafka. The oppressive office, the dirty streets, the bewildering bureaucracy, and rigid and obtuse authority figures are something Kafka lovers can immediately identify with. Yet unlike Kafka, there is more humanity here. Kafka’s characters were never what I would call ‘deep’. In fact, most of them were barely human (The Metamorphosis, The Hunger Artist, The Burrow). Gogol is more interested in the pathos whereas Kafka saw mostly absurdity.

40% done with Anna Karenin

I love how Tolstoy handles the passage of time in his stories. He’s able to make it seem as if the events you’re reading are playing out in real-time right before you. It’s almost eerie.

But just when you think you’ve got his clock figured out, he manages to stretch out the afternoon steeplechase sequence over 4 different characters. It’s like getting to watch a reply of every tragic rider one-by-one.