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

Chapter 12

С этой минуты начался тот три дня не перестававший крик, который так был ужасен, что нельзя было за двумя дверями без ужаса слышать его.[1] В ту минуту, как он ответил жене, он понял, что он пропал,[2] что возврата нет, что пришел конец, совсем конец, а сомнение так и не разрешено, так и остается сомнением.
From that moment the screaming began that continued for three days, and was so terrible that one could not hear it through two closed doors without horror.[1] At the moment he answered his wife realized that he was lost,[2] that there was no return, that the end had come, the very end, and his doubts were still unsolved and remained doubts.
– У! Уу! У! – кричал он на разные интонации. Он начал кричать: “Не хочу!” – и так продолжал кричать на букву “у”.
“Oh! Oh! Oh!” he cried in various intonations. He had begun by screaming “I won’t!” and continued screaming on the letter “O”.
Все три дня, в продолжение которых для него не было времени, он барахтался в том черном мешке, в который просовывала его невидимая непреодолимая сила. Он бился, как бьется в руках палача приговоренный к смерти, зная, что он не может спастись; и с каждой минутой он чувствовал, что, несмотря на все усилия борьбы, он ближе и ближе становился к тому, что ужасало его. Он чувствовал, что мученье его и в том, что он всовывается в эту черную дыру, и еще больше в том, что он не может пролезть в нее. Пролезть же ему мешает признанье того, что жизнь его была хорошая. Это-то оправдание своей жизни цепляло и не пускало его вперед и больше всего мучало его.[3]
For three whole days, during which time did not exist for him, he struggled in that black sack into which he was being thrust by an invisible, resistless force. He struggled as a man condemned to death struggles in the hands of the executioner, knowing that he cannot save himself. And every moment he felt that despite all his efforts he was drawing nearer and nearer to what terrified him. He felt that his agony was due to his being thrust into that black hole and still more to his not being able to get right into it. He was hindered from getting into it by his conviction that his life had been a good one. That very justification of his life held him fast and prevented his moving forward, and it caused him the most torment of all.[3]
Вдруг какая-то сила толкнула его в грудь, в бок, еще сильнее сдавила ему дыхание, он провалился в дыру, и там, в конце дыры, засветилось что-то. С ним сделалось то, что бывало с ним в вагоне железной дороги, когда думаешь, что едешь вперед, а едешь назад, и вдруг узнаешь настоящее направление.[4]
Suddenly some force struck him in the chest and side, making it still harder to breathe, and he fell through the hole and there at the bottom was a light. What had happened to him was like the sensation one sometimes experiences in a railway carriage when one thinks one is going backwards while one is really going forwards and suddenly becomes aware of the real direction.[4]
– Да, все было не то, – сказал он себе, – но это ничего. Можно, можно сделать “то”. Что ж “то”? – опросил он себя и вдруг затих.
“Yes, it was not the right thing,” he said to himself, “but that’s no matter. It can be done. But what is the right thing? he asked himself, and suddenly grew quiet.
Это было в конце третьего дня, за час до его смерти. В это самое время гимназистик тихонько прокрался к отцу и подошел к его постели. Умирающий все кричал отчаянно и кидал руками. Рука его попала на голову гимназистика. Гимназистик схватил ее, прижал к губам и заплакал.
This occurred at the end of the third day, two hours before his death. Just then his schoolboy son had crept softly in and gone up to the bedside. The dying man was still screaming desperately and waving his arms. His hand fell on the boy’s head, and the boy caught it, pressed it to his lips, and began to cry.
В это самое время Иван Ильич провалился, увидал свет, и ему открылось, что жизнь его была не то, что надо, но что это можно еще поправить. Он спросил себя: что же “то”, и затих, прислушиваясь. Тут он почувствовал, что руку его целует кто-то. Он открыл глаза и взглянул на сына. Ему стало жалко его. Жена подошла к нему. Он взглянул на нее. Она с открытым ртом и с неотертыми слезами на носу и щеке, с отчаянным выражением смотрела на него. Ему жалко стало ее.
At that very moment Ivan Ilych fell through and caught sight of the light, and it was revealed to him that though his life had not been what it should have been, this could still be rectified. He asked himself, “What is the right thing?” and grew still, listening. Then he felt that someone was kissing his hand. He opened his eyes, looked at his son, and felt sorry for him. His wife camp up to him and he glanced at her. She was gazing at him open-mouthed, with undried tears on her nose and cheek and a despairing look on her face. He felt sorry for her too.
“Да, я мучаю их, – подумал он. – Им жалко, но им лучше будет, когда я умру”. Он хотел сказать это, но не в силах был выговорить. “Впрочем, зачем же говорить, надо сделать”, – подумал он. Он указал жене взглядом на сына и сказал:
“Yes, I am making them wretched,” he thought. “They are sorry, but it will be better for them when I die.” He wished to say this but had not the strength to utter it. “Besides, why speak? I must act,” he thought. with a look at his wife he indicated his son and said:
– Уведи… жалко… и тебя…[5] – Он хотел сказать еще “прости”, но сказал “пропусти”, и, не в силах уже будучи поправиться, махнул рукою, зная, что поймет тот, кому надо.[6]
“Take him away…sorry for him…sorry for you too….”[5] He tried to add, “Forgive me,” but said “Forego” and waved his hand, knowing that He whose understanding mattered would understand.[6]
И вдруг ему стало ясно, что то, что томило его и не выходило, что вдруг все выходит сразу, и с двух сторон, с десяти сторон, со всех сторон.[7] Жалко их, надо сделать, чтобы им не больно было. Избавить их и самому избавиться от этих страданий. “Как хорошо и как просто, – подумал он. – А боль? – спросил он себя, – Ее куда? Ну-ка, где ты, боль?”
And suddenly it grew clear to him that what had been oppressing him and would not leave him was all dropping away at once from two sides, from ten sides, and from all sides.[7] He was sorry for them, he must act so as not to hurt them: release them and free himself from these sufferings. “How good and how simple!” he thought. “And the pain?” he asked himself. “What has become of it? Where are you, pain?”
Он стал прислушиваться.
He turned his attention to it.
“Да, вот она. Ну что ж, пускай боль”.
“Yes, here it is. Well, what of it? Let the pain be.”
“А смерть? Где она?”
“And death…where is it?”
Он искал своего прежнего привычного страха смерти и не находил его. Где она? Какая смерть? Страха никакого не было, потому что и смерти не было.
He sought his former accustomed fear of death and did not find it. “Where is it? What death?” There was no fear because there was no death.
Вместо смерти был свет.
In place of death there was light.
– Так вот что! – вдруг вслух проговорил он. – Какая радость!
“So that’s what it is!” he suddenly exclaimed aloud. “What joy!”
Для него все это произошло в одно мгновение, и значение этого мгновения уже не изменялось. Для присутствующих же агония его продолжалась еще два часа. В груди его клокотало что-то; изможденное тело его вздрагивало. Потом реже и реже стало клокотанье и хрипенье.
To him all this happened in a single instant, and the meaning of that instant did not change. For those present his agony continued for another two hours. Something rattled in his throat, his emaciated body twitched, then the gasping and rattle became less and less frequent.
– Кончено! – сказал кто-то над ним.[8]
“It is finished!” said someone near him.[8]
Он услыхал эти слова и повторил их в своей душе. “Кончена смерть, – сказал он себе. – Ее нет больше”.
He heard these words and repeated them in his soul. “Death is finished,” he said to himself. “It is no more!”
Он втянул в себя воздух, остановился на половине вздоха, потянулся и умер.
He drew in a breath, stopped in the midst of a sigh, stretched out, and died.
Конец
The End

  1. 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."
  2. The associated noun "propast'" means "abyss."
  3. 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.
  4. 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 and Jahn (1993).
  5. 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).
  6. 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.
  7. 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."
  8. 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.