The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Confession

Overview

“Over the past hundred years we have had numerous versions . . . of [Tolstoy’s] major works. This volume, however, is arguably the best so far.” —Times Literary Supplement
In the last two days of his own life, Peter Carson completed these new translations of The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Confession before he succumbed to cancer in January 2013. Carson, the eminent British publisher, editor, and translator who, in the words of his author Mary Beard, “had probably more influence on the literary landscape of ...

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Overview

“Over the past hundred years we have had numerous versions . . . of [Tolstoy’s] major works. This volume, however, is arguably the best so far.” —Times Literary Supplement
In the last two days of his own life, Peter Carson completed these new translations of The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Confession before he succumbed to cancer in January 2013. Carson, the eminent British publisher, editor, and translator who, in the words of his author Mary Beard, “had probably more influence on the literary landscape of [England] over the past fifty years than any other single person,” must have seen the irony of translating Ilyich, Tolstoy’s profound meditation on death and loss, “but he pressed on regardless, apparently refusing to be distracted by the parallel of literature and life.” In Carson’s shimmering prose, these two transcendent works are presented in their most faithful rendering in English. Unlike so many previous translations that have tried to smooth out Tolstoy’s rough edges, Carson presents a translation that captures the verisimilitude and psychological realism of the original Russian text.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This wonderful modern edition of Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich appears side by side with the autobiographical Confession in a new translation by Peter Carson—perhaps even more remarkable for having been completed as Carson, a famed editor and previous translator of works by Turgenev and Chekhov, was himself dying. Still preserved is Tolstoy’s stripped-down late style and the startlingly unsentimental treatment of the bourgeois prosecutor Illyich’s narrow and unremarkable life, his recognition of his own waning mortality (the “fraud concealing both life and death”), and his painful end. And yet the translation brings realism not only to Ivan’s psychology, but to the vivid world that survives him. Death has seldom been more starkly or plainly rendered, and the bleakness of Ivan’s revelation that “life is nonsense” is answered by Confession, Tolstoy’s own testament of a new life. A classic work of memoir and theology, the record of Tolstoy’s childhood loss of faith, dissolute youth, and slow return to a reasoned spiritualism still has the power to inspire reverence: “If a man lives, then he believes in something.” Among the best treatments of death and belief in any art form, The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Confession should be read together; a generous remembrance of Peter Carson by Mary Beard and a note comparing past translations complement an accomplishment in literature that belongs in every library. (Nov.)
John Sutherland - The Spectator
“This volume…for all its somberness of subject, is a vindication of the human spirit.”
Edward Platt - The Daily Beast
“If you had one year to live, how would you spend it? That’s a question most of us wouldn’t know how to answer but for one British publisher and translator it was easy: to translate Tolstoy’s great story about a dying man, The Death of Ivan Illyich….”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780871404268
  • Publisher: Liveright Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 11/25/2013
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 680,163
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), a giant of world literature, is the author of many classics, including War and Peace and Anna Karenina.

Peter Carson (1938–2013) was the editor in chief of Penguin UK and Profile Books and the translator of Fathers and Sons by Turgenev and the plays of Anton Chekhov. He lived in London until his death.

A professor of classics at Cambridge, Mary Beard is the author of the best-selling The Fires of Vesuvius. A popular blogger and television presenter, she contributes frequently to the New York Review of Books. She lives in England.

Biography

Count Leo Tolstoy was born in 1828 on the family estate of Yasnaya Polyana, in the Tula province, where he spent most of his early years, together with his several brothers. In 1844 he entered the University of Kazan to read Oriental Languages and later Law, but left before completing a degree. He spent the following years in a round of drinking, gambling and womanizing, until weary of his idle existence he joined an artillery regiment in the Caucasus in 1851.

He took part in the Crimean war and after the defence of Sevastopol wrote The Sevastopol Sketches (1855-6), which established his literary reputation. After leaving the army in 1856 Tolstoy spent some time mixing with the literati in St Petersburg before traveling abroad and then settling at Yasnaya Polyana, where he involved himself in the running of peasant schools and the emancipation of the serfs. His marriage to Sofya Andreyevna Behrs in 1862 marked the beginning of a period of contentment centred around family life; they had thirteen children. Tolstoy managed his vast estates, continued his educational projects, cared for his peasants and wrote both his great novels, War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877).

During the 1870s he underwent a spiritual crisis, the moral and religious ideas that had always dogged him coming to the fore. A Confession (1879–82) marked an outward change in his life and works; he became an extreme rationalist and moralist, and in a series of pamphlets written after 1880 he rejected church and state, indicted the demands of flesh, and denounced private property. His teachings earned him numerous followers in Russia and abroad, and also led finally to his excommunication by the Russian Holy Synod in 1901. In 1910 at the age of eighty-two he fled from home "leaving this worldly life in order to live out my last days in peace and solitude;" he died some days later at the station master's house at Astapovo.

Author biography courtesy of Penguin Books LTD.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      September 9, 1828
    2. Place of Birth:
      Tula Province, Russia
    1. Date of Death:
      November 20, 1910
    2. Place of Death:
      Astapovo, Russia

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