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The Death of Ivan Ilyich - A Big Read Documentary

From: National Endowment for the Arts
Series: The Big Read
Length: 28:39

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It's not dark yet. Well, actually it is. But actor Alfred Molina makes a book with Death in the title an absolute thrill to listen to. The program features several cultural all-stars, including Martin Amis, Cynthia Ozick, and the Librarian of Congress, James Billington. Not to mention music by Bob Dylan, Bach, and Rachmaninov.

Cover_deathivanilyich_small Leo Tolstoy's Ivan Ilyich is a Russian judge and middle-class everyman. Struck down by disease at forty-five, Ivan discovers a horrifying truth: He has not lived a meaningful life. 

Chapter Two’s opening words reveal a more alarming reality: “Ivan Ilyich’s life had been most simple and commonplace—and most horrifying.” The omniscient narrator takes the reader back to Ivan’s happy childhood, predictable youth, and ambitious adulthood. Praskovya Fedorovna falls in love with him, so he marries her. In less than a year, his discontentment leads him to escape into work and his favorite pastime, playing cards. In time, he buys a house, and Praskovya bears five children, three of whom die. He shrewdly climbs the Russian social ladder and receives an impressive income. The couple moves to a new city, buys a bigger house, and avoids genuine intimacy. They continue their comfortable, contented lives for almost two decades 

Piece Description

Leo Tolstoy's Ivan Ilyich is a Russian judge and middle-class everyman. Struck down by disease at forty-five, Ivan discovers a horrifying truth: He has not lived a meaningful life. 

Chapter Two’s opening words reveal a more alarming reality: “Ivan Ilyich’s life had been most simple and commonplace—and most horrifying.” The omniscient narrator takes the reader back to Ivan’s happy childhood, predictable youth, and ambitious adulthood. Praskovya Fedorovna falls in love with him, so he marries her. In less than a year, his discontentment leads him to escape into work and his favorite pastime, playing cards. In time, he buys a house, and Praskovya bears five children, three of whom die. He shrewdly climbs the Russian social ladder and receives an impressive income. The couple moves to a new city, buys a bigger house, and avoids genuine intimacy. They continue their comfortable, contented lives for almost two decades 

Transcript

The Death of Ivan Ilyich
By Leo Tolstoy
Audio Guide Script
July 8, 2009

Alfred Molina: [Reads from The Death of Ivan Ilyich, pages 31-33]
“Gentlemen!... Ivan Ilyich is dead.”

Josephine Reed Now, The Big Read.

Molina: Ivan Ilyich had been a colleague of the gentlemen as¬sembled here and they had all been fond of him. He had been ill for some weeks and his disease was said to be in¬curable. His post had been kept open for him, but it had been speculated that in the event of his death Alekseev might be appointed to his place and either Vinnikov or Shtabel succeed Alekseev. And so the first thought that oc¬curred to each of the gentlemen in this office, learning of Ivan Ilyich’s death, was what effect it would have on their own transfers and promotions or those of their ac¬quaintances.
In addition to the speculations aroused in each man’s mind about the transfers and likely job chan...
Read the full transcript

Musical Works

Title Artist Album Label Year Length
Cello Suite No. 6: Sarabande Alexander Rudin Bach's Complete Cello Suites. Naxos of America, Inc. 2002 :00
Piano Concerto No. 2: "Adagio sostenuto" Performed by Bernd Glemser, piano, with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, Antoni Wit, conductor [Rachmaninov] Piano Concertos Nos. 2 and 3 . Naxos of America 2002 :00
Piano Concerto No. 3: "Allegro ma non tanto," Performed by Bernd Glemser, piano, with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, Antoni Wit, conductor [Rachmaninov] Piano Concertos Nos. 2 and 3. Naxos of America, Inc. 2002 :00
"Gigue" (transcribed from Bach) Idil Biret, piano Rachmaninov: Piano Transcriptions and Arrangements. Naxos of America, Inc. 1998 :00
"Lullaby" (transcribed from Tchaikovsky) Idil Biret, piano Rachmaninov: Piano Transcriptions and Arrangements . Naxos of America, Inc. 1998 :00
Dance of the Young Gypsy Maidens from Aleko Idil Biret, piano Rachmaninov: Piano Transcriptions and Arrangements . Naxos of America 1998 :00
The Isle Of The Dead, Op. 29 Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Enrique Bátiz, conductor Rachmaninov: Symphonic Dances. Naxos of America, Inc. 1992 :00
Vespers, Op. 37: "Bless the Lord, O my soul" Finnish National Opera Chorus All-Night Vigil. Naxos of America, Inc. 2003 :00
Not Dark Yet Bob Dylan Time Out of Mind. Sony BMG Music Entertainment 1997 :00

Additional Credits

Written and produced by Dan Stone.

Production Assistance and Music Permissions by Adam Kampe.

Administrative assistants, Pepper Smith and Erika Koss.
Special thanks to Ken Huffman, Laura Bradshaw, Jeff Rosen.

"Not Dark Yet," written by Bob Dylan, published with permission of Special Rider Music (SESAC)

Yegor'yevskii Peal recorded at St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in San Anselmo, California (2006), used courtesy of Mark D. Galperin, producer, at Blagovest Bells.

Related Website

http://www.neabigread.org/books/deathivanilyich/radioshow.php