Source: Learn out Loud, courtesy of Hovel Audio (direct link)Length: Approx. 2 hr, 20 min
Reader: Simon Vance
The book: Tolstoy starts his novella The Death Of Ivan Illyich with the title character's funeral. Beginning in the middle or at the end of a story has been common since the time of Homer, but here the device is particularly effective because of the intrusive feeling of attending the funeral for someone we don't know. Many outside viewpoints are given about the life and death of Ivan Illyich, few of them positive.
In the second chapter, the viewpoint switches to Ivan Illyich's and quickly follows him through his life. Like those who attend his funeral out of obligation, Ivan lives life as if it is only something expected of him to do. When he falls ill, he becomes annoyed at those who don't behave as he thinks they should. As Illyich's disease progresses, we see illustrated the classic stages of grief, but Tolstoy also gives insight to the details of dying: the inability to have the doctor tell you what you want to know, the indignity of having someone else attend to your personal hygiene, and the boredom of waiting to die.
Ivan Illyich is one of Tolstoy's later works and the influence of his Christian conversion is evident in the climax. The profound insights into the entire process of dying make it no wonder that this book is often assigned reading for ministers, doctors, and hospice workers. Its short length is an excellent introduction to Tolstoy for those who want to avoid the commitment of his doorstop novels Anna Karena and War and Peace.
The recording: Simon Vance is a professional voice-over actor performing a commercial audiobook that just happens to given away for free. In this edition, The Death of Ivan Illyich is paired with the long story "Master and Man" as the collection Tolstoy on Death. Having already read "Master and Man" in print, I did not listen to it and do not intend to review it here except to say that Ivan Illyich is the greatly superior story.
Note: This recording is indeed free, though Learn Out Loud makes you register in order to download. No financial or personal information is required other than an email. I did not see an increase in spam following registration, but you must uncheck "Receive occasional emails". Be careful when giving personal information and never give credit card information for "free" audiobooks