The brilliance of this story is in how a normal bureaucrat, a judge in this case, has a small accident that winds up gradually taking his life. As he deals with this incident, with hope at first and then despair, he comes to terms with his family, his life, and the mediocrities that we all suffer with, except for the exceptional few. This story rings a particularly poignant note for those in early middle age facing the next part of their lives. This story is considered Tolstoy's best.
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Great Book, Great Price, Good Narration
The Egotist Looks At A Mirror
Ironically, the answer to both questions is Ivan's conversion at the end of his life. The humanity of facing ones death is an inevitability for all and our vision of Ivan is a window into that psychology. For 99.99%+ of the population, we can only truly understand the death experience when we die. I only give nominal deference to those who have "experienced" being brain dead but have been revived. Even still, they did not die completely. Tolstoy's attempt is ambitious but it rings plausible enough for a honest rendering of my own end (several decades from now, I hope). What most disappointed me was the ending which described a conversion that was anything besides a factual existence. Ivan began his long path of terminal diagnosis in a state of disbelief. How could he be dying since he lived so well? But in the end, his pain goes away only when he accepted that he lived selfishly. This realization perpetuates the mythology that our sufferings are directly proportional to our "goodness". At one point, all the people around Ivan, including the doctors, accept the inevitable because Ivan's ailments are beyond their reach and understanding - why cannot man accept that the world in all of its glory and good things is made for their sole benefit? This ego-centrism is frustrating to witness first hand but perhaps can be somewhat forgiven as this was written in the 1886 when religion was still a principle source of scientific knowledge.
See question above.
I'm keeping my 2-star rating but it's probably unfair. I DID feel the performance was a bit mechanical but so was the writing. Still, I can not offer an alternate narrator.
No, this book is not open ended and nor should it be. This book is intended to efface self-reflection regarding death and I think it's sufficiently accomplished.