Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy *****

A couple years ago I was reading Shannon's blog, Half Soled Boots, when she posted a link to the blog What Is Stephen Harper Reading?. First, for all my ignorant fellow Americans (I'm including myself in this), Stephen Harper is the PM of Canada. Duh. Why didn't I know that?
Anyways, the Canadian author Yann Martel started the blog to give Mr. Harper some suggestions of things to read. Looking at the list (which is now on it's 73rd book) I realized I've read very few of these lovely books. So I thought that whenever I felt the urge I'd just whale away at it.
This is book #1. If you're wanting something light & happy, don't read this amazingly short Tolstoy story. But if you want to read something profound & satisfying, do it.
The book opens with Ivan already dead, but we then travel back in time to follow his life up to the moment of his last breath. Ivan followed all the rules of society. So why does his life look like nothing as he lays in bed dying?
As I read the story, I couldn't help thinking of my own father's death. Is this how he felt, I wondered, as his life quickly folded up around him? Did I keep up the act, the farce, that he wasn't dying, just as Ivan's family does? I don't know. I do know that this is a book of great value. And I certainly can see why Yann Martel recommended it to Stephen Harper.
I recommend it to you.

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