The Death of Ivan Ilych
By Leo Tolstoy
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Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (9th September 1828 – 20th November 1910) was born into a well known Russian family of nobility who was brought up by relatives following his parents death when he was very young. Described by his teachers at university as "unable and unwilling to learn" he abandoned all formal education and after running up gambling debts joined the army with his older brother. Here he started writing and had a moral and spiritual awakening that transformed him from the privileged aristocrat to a social reformer leading the life of an ascetic peasant. Later still, his interpretation of the ethical teachings of Jesus made him a fervent Christian anarchist and pacifist. His writings on non violence were to have a profound impact on Gandhi and Martin Luther King. "The Death of Ivan Ilych" is a masterpiece on death and dying. The principal character, a judge in St Petersburg, is described as "an intelligent, polished, lively, and agreeable man." His life is good and there is no place for him to face his own mortality but after a minor health problem, he has to face his death and inevitably his life. Tolstoy is widely considered to be one of the greatest novelists of all time and in reading this compelling and powerful book it is clear why.