Art and Scholasticism

#95- Tolstoy’s Mini Masterpiece: The Death of Ivan Ilyich

This week, Scott and Karl read a novella by Leo Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Published in Russian as Smert Ivana Ilycha in 1886, this short story remains one of Tolstoy’s most celebrated pieces of late fiction.

As Scott puts it, “This is the smallest chunk of Tolstoy that could be had.”

The story provides an examination of the nature of both life and death, and how man can come to terms with death’s inevitability. Ivan Ilyich, a worldly careerist, has to realize he’s dying before he starts to put any value on himself. By forcing Ivan to confront the prospect of his death, it brings him face to face with his own isolation.

Before having to look death in the face, Scott says, “Ivan thought everything in his life was for someone else to observe and judge.”

How does an unreflective man confront his moment of truth?

Tune in to learn more about the slow degradation of Ivan, but also the possibility of finding spiritual salvation.

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