This new edition combines Tolstoy's most famous short tale, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, with a less well known but equally brilliant gem, Master and Man, both newly translated by Ann Pasternak Slater. Both stories confront death and the process of dying: In Ivan Ilyich, a bureaucrat looks back over his life, which suddenly seems meaningless and wasteful, while in Master and Man, a landowner and servant must each confront the value of the other as they brave a devastating snowstorm.
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December 31, 2002
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Excerpt from The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Master and Man by Leo Tolstoy
During a break in the hearing of the Melvinski case in the great hall of the Law Courts, members of the judicial council and the public prosecutor met in Ivan Yegorovich Shebek's private chambers. The conversation turned to the famous Krasov affair. Feodor Vassilievich grew heated demonstrating that it was not subject to jurisdiction. Ivan Yegorovich held his own. Piotr Ivanovich, who had not participated initially, took no part in the argument and leafed through the newly delivered Gazette.
"Gentlemen!" he said, "Ivan Ilyich is dead."
"Not really "
"Here; read it for yourself," he said to Feodor Vassilievich, passing him the fresh sheets, still with their own smell.
The black-framed notice ran: "It is with deep regret that Praskovya Feodorovna Golovina informs relatives and friends of the death of her beloved husband, Ivan Ilyich Golovin, Member of the Court of Justice, on February the fourth of this year, 1882. The body will be laid to rest on Friday at 1 p.m."
Ivan Ilyich was a colleague of the gentlemen present, and everyone liked him. He had been ill for several weeks; people said the disease was incurable. His place had been kept open for him, but it was generally assumed that, were he to die, Alexeyev might get his place, and Alexeyev's place would be taken either by Vinnikov or Shtabel. So when they heard of the death of Ivan Ilyich, the first thought of all those present in Shebek's chambers was how this might affect their own relocations and promotions, and those of their friends.
"Now I'll probably get Shtabel's place or Vinnikov's," thought Feodor Vassilievich. "It's been promised to me for a long time. The promotion will bring me a raise of eight hundred rubles, apart from the allowance for office expenses."1
"I'll have to put in for my brother-in-law's transfer from Kaluga," thought Piotr Ivanovich. "My wife will be very pleased. And then no one can say I never did anything for her relatives."
"I thought he'd never get up from his bed again," said Piotr Ivanovich aloud. "Very sad."
"What exactly was wrong with him "
"The doctors couldn't make it out. That is, they could, but each one thought something different. The last time I saw him, I thought he'd get better."
"And I didn't manage to visit him after the holidays. I kept meaning to go."
"Did he have property "
"I think something very small came to him through his wife. But really quite insignificant."
"Yes, we'll have to pay our respects. They lived a dreadfully long way out."
"A long way from you, you mean. Everything's a long way from you."
"He just can't forgive my living beyond the river," said Piotr Ivanovich, smiling at Shebek. The conversation passed to the distances between different parts of the city, and they went back into court.