The Russian and English texts of “The Death of Ivan Ilich” Presented Side by Side

Chapter 10

Прошло еще две недели.[1] Иван Ильич уже не вставал с дивана. Он не хотел лежать в постели и лежал на диване.[2] И, лежа почти все время лицом к стене, он одиноко страдал все те же неразрешающиеся страдания и одиноко думал все ту же неразрешающуюся думу. Что это? Неужели правда, что смерть? И внутренний голос отвечал: да, правда. Зачем эти муки? И голос отвечал: а так, ни зачем. Дальше и кроме этого ничего не было.
Another fortnight passed.[1] Ivan Ilych now no longer left his sofa. He would not lie in bed but lay on the sofa,[2] facing the wall nearly all the time. He suffered ever the same unceasing agonies and in his loneliness pondered always on the same insoluble question: “What is this? Can it be that it is Death?” And the inner voice answered: “Yes, it is Death.” “Why these sufferings?” And the voice answered, “For no reason — they just are so.” Beyond and besides this there was nothing.
С самого начала болезни, с того времени, как Иван Ильич в первый раз поехал к доктору, его жизнь разделилась на два противоположные настроения, сменившие одно другое: то было отчаяние и ожидание непонятной и ужасной смерти, то была надежда и исполненное интереса наблюдение за деятельностью своего тела. То перед глазами была одна почка или кишка, которая на время отклонилась от исполнения своих обязанностей, то была одна непонятная ужасная смерть, от которой ничем нельзя избавиться.
From the very beginning of his illness, ever since he had first been to see the doctor, Ivan Ilych’s life had been divided between two contrary and alternating moods: now it was despair and the expectation of this uncomprehended and terrible death, and now hope and an intently interested observation of the functioning of his organs. Now before his eyes there was only a kidney or an intestine that temporarily evaded its duty, and now only that incomprehensible and dreadful death from which it was impossible to escape.
Эти два настроения с самого начала болезни сменяли друг друга; но чем дальше шла болезнь, тем сомнительнее и фантастичнее становились соображения о почке и тем реальнее сознание наступающей смерти.
These two states of mind had alternated from the very beginning of his illness, but the further it progressed the more doubtful and fantastic became the conception of the kidney, and the more real the sense of impending death.
Стоило ему вспомнить о том, чем он был три месяца тому назад, и то, что он теперь; вспомнить, как равномерно он шел под гору, – чтобы разрушилась всякая возможность надежды.
He had but to call to mind what he had been three months before and what he was now, to call to mind with what regularity he had been going downhill, for every possibility of hope to be shattered.
В последнее время того одиночества, в котором он находился, лежа лицом к спинке дивана, того одиночества среди многолюдного города и своих многочисленных знакомых и семьи, – одиночества, полнее которого не могло быть нигде: ни на дне моря, ни в земле,[3] – последнее время этого страшного одиночества Иван Ильич жил только воображением в прошедшем. Одна за другой ему представлялись картины его прошедшего. Начиналось всегда с ближайшего по времени и сводилось к самому отдаленному, к детству, и на нем останавливалось. Вспоминал ли Иван Ильич о вареном черносливе, который ему предлагали есть нынче, он вспоминал о сыром сморщенном французском черносливе в детстве, об особенном вкусе его и обилии слюны, когда дело доходило до косточки, и рядом с этим воспоминанием вкуса возникал целый ряд воспоминаний того времени: няня, брат, игрушки. “Не надо об этом… слишком больно”, – говорил себе Иван Ильич и опять переносился в настоящее. Пуговица на спинке дивана и морщины сафьяна. “Сафьян дорог, непрочен; ссора была из-за него. Но сафьян другой был, и другая ссора, когда мы разорвали портфель у отца и нас наказали, а мама принесла пирожки”. И опять останавливалось на детстве, и опять Ивану Ильичу было больно, и он старался отогнать и думать о другом.
Latterly during the loneliness in which he found himself as he lay facing the back of the sofa, a loneliness in the midst of a populous town and surrounded by numerous acquaintances and relations but that yet could not have been more complete anywhere — either at the bottom of the sea or under the earth[3] — during that terrible loneliness Ivan Ilych had lived only in memories of the past. Pictures of his past rose before him one after another. They always began with what was nearest in time and then went back to what was most remote — to his childhood — and rested there. If he thought of the stewed prunes that had been offered him that day, his mind went back to the raw shrivelled French plums of his childhood, their peculiar flavour and the flow of saliva when he sucked their stones, and along with the memory of that taste came a whole series of memories of those days: his nurse, his brother, and their toys. “No, I mustn’t thing of that….It is too painful,” Ivan Ilych said to himself, and brought himself back to the present — to the button on the back of the sofa and the creases in its morocco. “Morocco is expensive, but it does not wear well: there had been a quarrel about it. It was a different kind of quarrel and a different kind of morocco that time when we tore father’s portfolio and were punished, and mamma brought us some tarts….” And again his thoughts dwelt on his childhood, and again it was painful and he tried to banish them and fix his mind on something else.
И опять тут же, вместе с этим ходом воспоминания, у него в душе шел другой ход воспоминаний – о том, как усиливалась и росла его болезнь. То же, что дальше назад, то больше было жизни. Больше было и добра в жизни, и больше было и самой жизни. И то и другое сливалось вместе. “Как мучения все идут хуже и хуже, так и вся жизнь шла все хуже и хуже”, – думал он. Одна точка светлая там, назади, в начале жизни, а потом все чернее и чернее и все быстрее и быстрее.[4] “Обратно пропорционально квадратам расстояний от смерти”, – подумал Иван Ильич. И этот образ камня, летящего вниз с увеличивающейся быстротой, запал ему в душу. Жизнь, ряд увеличивающихся страданий, летит быстрее и быстрее к концу, страшнейшему страданию. “Я лечу…” Он вздрагивал, шевелился, хотел противиться; но уже он знал, что противиться нельзя, и опять усталыми от смотрения, но не могущими не смотреть на то, что было перед ним, глазами глядел на спинку дивана и ждал, – ждал этого страшного падения, толчка и разрушения. “Противиться нельзя, – говорил он себе. – Но хоть бы понять, зачем это? И того нельзя. Объяснить бы можно было, если бы сказать, что я жил не так, как надо. Но этого-то уже невозможно признать”, – говорил он сам себе, вспоминая всю законность, правильность и приличие своей жизни. “Этого-то допустить уж невозможно, – говорил он себе, усмехаясь губами, как будто кто-нибудь мог видеть эту его улыбку и быть обманутым ею. – Нет объяснения! Мучение, смерть… Зачем?”
Then again together with that chain of memories another series passed through his mind — of how his illness had progressed and grown worse. There also the further back he looked the more life there had been. There had been more of what was good in life and more of life itself. The two merged together. “Just as the pain went on getting worse and worse, so my life grew worse and worse,” he thought. “There is one bright spot there at the back, at the beginning of life, and afterwards all becomes blacker and blacker and proceeds more and more rapidly[4] — in inverse ration to the square of the distance from death,” thought Ivan Ilych. And the example of a stone falling downwards with increasing velocity entered his mind. Life, a series of increasing sufferings, flies further and further towards its end — the most terrible suffering. “I am flying….” He shuddered, shifted himself, and tried to resist, but was already aware that resistance was impossible, and again with eyes weary of gazing but unable to cease seeing what was before them, he stared at the back of the sofa and waited — awaiting that dreadful fall and shock and destruction. “Resistance is impossible!” he said to himself. “If I could only understand what it is all for! But that too is impossible. An explanation would be possible if it could be said that I have not lived as I ought to. But it is impossible to say that,” and he remembered all the legality, correctitude, and propriety of his life. “That at any rate can certainly not be admitted,” he thought, and his lips smiled ironically as if someone could see that smile and be taken in by it. “There is no explanation! Agony, death….What for?”

  1. Chapters Two, Three, and Four cover a period of many years in the life of Ivan Ilich, up to the onset of his illness. In Chapter Seven it was noted that his illness was in its third month. Here we learn that two more weeks have gone by. In Chapter Eleven weeks are mentioned again, and Chapter Twelve begins by mentioning days and concludes with the note that the agony of the patient lasted another two hours. Clearly, the steadily diminishing units of time which are mentioned in the text are matched with the steadily decreasing size of the chapters in which they are mentioned. (See the section "Proportions of the Text" in the "Introduction.") This brings a steadily accelerating rhythm to the final chapters. The text draws our attention to this in the final paragraph of Chapter Ten: "And the example of a stone falling downwards with increasing velocity entered his mind." The Russian text might more exactly be translated as: "And the image of a stone flying downward with increasing speed lodged in his soul" (literally, 'fell into his spirit' (Russ. 'zapal v duxu').
  2. In Tolstoy's study in his house at Yasnaya polyana (his country estate) the largest item of furniture was a broad couch in black leather which was positioned against the wall just behind the desk and chair at which Tolstoy usually sat while writing. It was at this desk that he wrote "The Death of Ivan Ilich." The black couch had been in the family a long time. It was on this couch, in fact, that, according to family tradition, Tolstoy himself and each of his siblings had been born in the 1820's. This couch seems very similar to the one described in Ivan Ilich's study, on which he lies in his final weeks and days with his face turned to the wall. There is an interesting and perhaps significant juxtaposition between the couch in the story as the site of Ivan Ilich's death and the couch in Tolstoy's study as the site of his own and his sibling's birth. Here is a picture of Tolstoy in his study with the couch at his back.
  3. We note that both of the images supplied here ("at the bottom of the sea" and "in the earth") suggest places of burial, providing confirmation that Ivan Ilich is, for practical purposes, already long since dead and even buried. Thus, the struggles which he continues to face are suggested once more to be spiritual rather than physical in kind, and to be associated with the rebirth of the spirit. From this also stems the importance which Ivan Ilich attaches to his memories of childhood and his desire to be a child again and to be treated as a child (Chapter Nine). His preference is to move, in thought, spiritually, back from the life he has led toward the moment of his birth.
  4. The similarity between Ivan Ilich's reflections ("course of thoughts") pertaining to his illness and physical decline and his deliberate remembering of his life as a whole makes it virtually explicit that his illness is a metaphor of his life. "The one and the other flowed together. As the torments became ever worse and worse, so also did my life as a whole become ever worse."