A Fully Glossed Russian Text of “The Death of Ivan Ilich” with Explanatory and Interpretive Annotations
С э́той мину́ты начался́ тот три дня не перестава́вший крик, кото́рый так был ужа́сен, что нельзя́ бы́ло за двумя́ дверя́ми без у́жаса слы́шать его́. В ту мину́ту, как он отве́тил жене́, он по́нял, что он пропа́л, что возвра́та нет, что пришёл коне́ц, совсем коне́ц, а сомне́ние так и не разрешено́, так и остаётся сомне́нием.
Все три дня, в продолже́ние кото́рых для него́ не́ было вре́мени, он бара́хтался в том чёрном мешке́, в кото́рый просо́вывала его́ неви́димая непреодоли́мая си́ла. Он би́лся, как бьётся в рука́х палача́ приговорённый к сме́рти, зна́я, что он не мо́жет спасти́сь; и с ка́ждой мину́той он чу́вствовал, что, несмотря́ на все уси́лия борьбы́, он бли́же и бли́же станови́лся к тому́, что ужаса́ло его́. Он чу́вствовал, что муче́нье его́ и в том, что он всо́вывается в э́ту чёрную дыру́, и ещё больше в том, что он не мо́жет проле́зть в неё. Проле́зть же ему́ меша́ет призна́нье того, что жизнь его́ была́ хоро́шая. Э́то-то оправда́ние свое́й жи́зни цепля́ло и не пуска́ло его́ вперёд и бо́льше всего́ му́чало его́.
Вдруг кака́я-то си́ла толкну́ла его́ в грудь, в бок, ещё сильне́е сдави́ла ему́ дыха́ние, он провали́лся в дыру́, и там, в конце́ дыры́, засвети́лось что́-то. С ним сде́лалось то, что быва́ло с ним в ваго́не желе́зной доро́ги, когда́ ду́маешь, что е́дешь вперёд, а е́дешь наза́д, и вдруг узнаёшь настоя́щее направле́ние.
Э́то бы́ло в конце́ тре́тьего дня, за час до его́ сме́рти. В э́то са́мое вре́мя гимнази́стик тихо́нько прокра́лся к отцу́ и подошёл к его́ посте́ли. Умира́ющий всё крича́л отча́янно и кида́л рука́ми. Рука́ его́ попа́ла на́ голову гимнази́стика. Гимнази́стик схвати́л её, прижа́л к губа́м и запла́кал.
В э́то са́мое вре́мя Ива́н Ильи́ч провали́лся, увида́л свет, и ему́ откры́лось, что жизнь его́ была́ не то, что на́до, но что э́то мо́жно ещё попра́вить. Он спроси́л себя́, что же "то", и зати́х, прислу́шиваясь. Тут он почу́вствовал, что ру́ку его́ целу́ет кто́-то. Он откры́л глаза́ и взгляну́л на сы́на. Ему́ ста́ло жа́лко его́. Жена́ подошла́ к нему́. Он взгляну́л на неё. Она́ с откры́тым ртом и с неотёртыми слеза́ми на носу́ и щеке́, с отча́янным выраже́нием смотре́ла на него́. Ему́ жа́лко ста́ло её.
"Да, я му́чаю их, - поду́мал он. – Им жа́лко, но им лу́чше бу́дет, когда́ я умру́". Он хоте́л сказа́ть э́то, но не в си́лах был вы́говорить. "Впро́чем, заче́м же говори́ть, на́до сде́лать", – поду́мал он. Он указа́л жене́ взгля́дом на сы́на и сказа́л:
И вдруг ему́ ста́ло я́сно, что то, что томи́ло его и не выходи́ло, что вдруг всё выхо́дит сра́зу, и с двух сторо́н, с десяти́ сторо́н, со всех сторон. Жа́лко их, на́до сде́лать, что́бы им не бо́льно бы́ло. Изба́вить их и самому́ изба́виться от э́тих страда́ний. "Как хорошо́ и как про́сто, - поду́мал он. – А боль? - спроси́л он себя́, - Её куда? Ну́-ка, где ты, боль?"
Для него́ всё это произошло́ в одно́ мгнове́ние, и значе́ние э́того мгнове́ния уже́ не изменя́лось. Для прису́тствующих же аго́ния его́ продолжа́лась ещё два часа́. В груди́ его́ клокота́ло что́-то; измождённое те́ло его́ вздра́гивало. Пото́м ре́же и ре́же ста́ло клокота́нье и хрипе́нье.
- A reminder of Praskovya Fyodorovna's description (in Chapter One) of how terrible the last days of Ivan Ilich had been for her because she could hear him screaming through multiple closed doors. This is also a metaphorical reminder that in the end unpleasantness cannot be avoided simply by "slamming the door on it." ↵
- The associated noun "propast'" means "abyss." ↵
- This is the final appearance of the image of the black sack. We recall Ivan Ilich's ambiguous relation to this sensation: his competing desires to resist and co-operate. Here the desire to "get into it" has supervened and it is only his persistent desire to see his life as good that prevents him from doing so. We know with certainty from the material in the three preceding chapters that his life has not been good, has been characterized in fact as not having been "life" at all. ↵
- At this moment Ivan Ilich finally realizes that his life has not been life at all in the true sense of the word, and we as readers receive our final clue that the significance of Ivan Ilich's story can only be grasped by seeing it as the reverse of what it might appear to be: not only the story of how he died, but more importantly the story of how he returned to life. The black sack can now seem to represent not the end of life but its return, and the similarity of Ivan Ilich's experience in the black sack to the presumed experience of a baby descending the birth canal and about to be born becomes apparent, especially in the remark that "it became light" at the end of the black hole (the Russian word "dyra" ("hole") can also be used to mean a tunnel). There has been a great deal of comment in the scholarship on the novel on the significance of the black sack and its function in the text. For sources see the bibliography, especially Sorokin (1971) and Jahn (1993). ↵
- Another allusion to the Passion narrative, the passage in which Jesus, near death, entrusts his mother with the care of the apostle John with the words "Mother, behold thy son; son, thy mother" (John, 19:26-27). ↵
- The confusion reflected here can be seen as a moment of coalescence between the spiritual concerns of the novel and the physiological description of Ivan Ilich's illness and death. At the final moment the forgiveness requested for a life that was wrong becomes mixed with the passage out of that life, figured metaphorically in the desire to "fall right through" the black sack. In this way, the novel may be seen to remain true both to its account of Ivan Ilich's physical death and its story of his spiritual rebirth. ↵
- While the entire course of the story of the life of Ivan Ilich has prepared us for this moment at which the space available to him would shrink down to no space at all (his movement from the breadth of the provinces, to localization in a single city, to confinement at home rather than going to work, to a preference to remain always in his study, to his final positioning on the sofa, and then at last to a particular position on the sofa--facing into the back of it). As this moment is reached, however, these confinements are transcended and Ivan Ilich is precipitated into a region which has no limits whatever: "In place of death there was light." A similar phenomenon occurs with respect to the dimension of time. The steadily shortening temporal framework (from years, to months, to weeks, to days, to hours) has been leading Ivan Ilich to the moment when his time is up, when no time at all remains. Instead, time, too, is transcended and we learn that: "all this happened in a single instant, and the meaning of that instant did not change." This changeless instant is described in the Russian as one that "no longer continued to change" (Russ. "uzhe ne izmenjalos'"). It is also clear, however, that the ordinary course of time, despite the transcendence asserted in these passages, also continues. Although Ivan Ilich has escaped, somehow, the ruin of his body, that body does still continue its course toward death without interruption: "For those present, his agony continued for another two hours." ↵
- This is the last of several allusions to the Passion story related in the Gospels. Tolstoy here uses the very same expression which he had employed, in his own translation of the Gospels, in emending the received Russian (Slavonic) translation of John, 19:30. It is, besides, a final affirmation of the principle of reading in reverse which we have been pursuing through these annotations; the final note that the novel sounds would seem to be not that the life of Ivan Ilich is finished, but that it has begun again or been reclaimed. ↵
From this minute began that for-three-days-not-ceasing shout
which was so terrible that (it) was impossible to hear it (even) from the other side of two (closed) doors without terror
At that minute, when he answered (his) wife, he understood that he had fallen off
that (there) is no return, that the end has come, the absolute end
and (his) doubt is thus not resolved, and thus is going to remain a doubt
Oo! Oo-oo! Oo!
screamed he in various intonations
He had begun to scream: (I) don't want
and in that way continued screaming on the letter "u"
For three whole days, in the course of which for him (there) was no time
he floundered about in that black sack
into which an invisible unstoppable force was pushing him
He struggled as (one) condemned to death struggles in the hands of the executioner
knowing that he cannot save himself
and with each minute he felt
that despite all the efforts of battling (it) he was becoming closer and closer to that which terrified him
He felt that his torment is both in the fact that he is being pushed into this black hole
and still more in the fact that he cannot get all the way into it
The acknowledgement that his life had been good blocks him from getting all the way in
This very justification of his life held (him) fast and did not allow him (to move) forward and more than anything tormented him
Suddenly some sort of force struck him in the chest, in the side
still more strongly (it, i.e., the force) crushed his breathing
he fell into the hole
and there, at the end of the hole, something had begun to shine
With him had occurred that which had happened before (lit., had been frequently) in a railway car
when one thinks that one is going forward, and one is (actually) going backward, and suddenly one realizes the true direction
Yes, everything was not the right thing, said he to himself
but this is nothing. (It) is possible, possible to do "the right thing"
But what is "the right thing"
he asked himself and suddenly fell silent
This was at the end of the third day
an hour before his death
At this very time the schoolboy had quietly stolen into his father('s room)
and had gone up to his bed
The dying man was all the while screaming desperately and waving his arms
His hand fell onto the head of the schoolboy
The schoolboy seized it, pressed it to (his) lips and began to cry
At this very time Ivan Ilich fell through, saw the light
and to him (it) was revealed that his life had been not the thing that (it) needs (to be)
but that this is possible still to put right
He asked himself: what then is "the right thing"
and (he) fell silent, listening (carefullly)
Here he felt that someone is kissing his hand
He opened (his) eyes and looked at (his) son
He (Ivan Ilich) became sorry for him (the son)
(His) wife came up to him
He looked at her
She with opened mouth and with unwiped tears on (her) nose and cheek
with despairing expression (she) looked at him
He became sorry for her
Yes, I am tormenting them, thought he
They feel sorry, but (it) will be better for them when I will die
He wanted to say this, but was not strong enough to get (the words) out
However, why talk, (it) is necessary to do (i.e., to act, to do something about it)
With a look he pointed out (his) son to (his) wife
Lead him away . . . sorry . . . and for you, too
He wanted in addition to say "forgive," but said "pass through" (instead)
and, no longer having the strength to correct himself
(he) waved (his) hand, knowing that that one will understand, to whom (it) is necessary (to understand)
And suddenly to him (it) became clear that that which had been wearing him out and would not leave
that suddenly all (of that) is leaving at once, from two sides, from ten sides, from all sides
(I'm) sorry for them, (it) is necessary to make (it) so that for them it won't be painful
To save them and to save myself from these sufferings
How good and how simple, thought he
And the pain? he asked himself, Where (has) it (gone)
Well, then, where are you, pain
He began to pay close heed
Yes, here it is. Well, so what, let (it) be pain
And death? Where is it?
He looked for his former accustomed fear of death and did not find it
Where is it (death)? What death
There was no fear at all because there also wasn't any death
Instead of death (there) was light
So that's it! he suddenly said aloud
For him all of this took place in one instant
and the significance of this instant no longer changed (i.e., was no longer subject to change)
For those present, however, his agony continued for two hours more
In his chest something made a gurgling sound
his wasted body shuddered
Then more and more rare became the gurgling and the wheezing
(It) is finished! said someone above him
He heard these words and repeated them in his soul
Finished is death, said he to himself
It is no more
He drew air into himself
(he) stopped at the mid-point of the breath
(he) stretched out and died