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

Chapter 3

Так шла жизнь Ивана Ильича в продолжение семнадцати лет со времени женитьбы. Он был уже старым прокурором, отказавшимся от некоторых перемещений, ожидая более желательного места, когда неожиданно случилось одно неприятное обстоятельство, совсем было нарушившее его спокойствие жизни.[1] Иван Ильич ждал места председателя в университетском городе, но Гоппе забежал как-то вперед и получил это место. Иван Ильич раздражился, стал делать упреки и поссорился с ним и с ближайшим начальством; к нему стали холодны и в следующем назначении его опять обошли.
So Ivan Ilych lived for seventeen years after his marriage. He was already a Public Prosecutor of long standing, and had declined several proposed transfers while awaiting a more desirable post, when an unanticipated and unpleasant occurrence quite upset the peaceful course of his life.[1] He was expecting to be offered the post of presiding judge in a University town, but Hoppe somehow came to the front and obtained the appointment instead. Ivan Ilych became irritable, reproached Hoppe, and quarrelled both with him and with his immediate superiors — who became colder to him and again passed him over when other appointments were made.
Это было в 1880 году. Этот год был самый тяжелый жизни Ивана Ильича. В этом году оказалось, с одной стороны, что жалованья не хватает на жизнь; с другой – что все его забыли и что то, что казалось для него по отношению к нему величайшей, жесточайшей несправедливостью, другим представлялось совсем обыкновенным делом. Даже отец не считал своей обязанностью помогать ему. Он почувствовал, что все покинули его, считая его положение с 3500 жалованья самым нормальным и даже счастливым. Он один знал, что с сознанием тех несправедливостей, которые были сделаны ему, и с вечным пилением жены, и с долгами, которые он стал делать, живя сверх средств, – он один знал, что его положение далеко не нормально.
This was in 1880, the hardest year of Ivan Ilych’s life. It was then that it became evident on the one hand that his salary was insufficient for them to live on, and on the other that he had been forgotten, and not only this, but that what was for him the greatest and most cruel injustice appeared to others a quite ordinary occurrence. Even his father did not consider it his duty to help him. Ivan Ilych felt himself abandoned by everyone, and that they regarded his position with a salary of 3,500 rubles as quite normal and even fortunate. He alone knew that with the consciousness of the injustices done him, with his wife’s incessant nagging, and with the debts he had contracted by living beyond his means, his position was far from normal.
Летом этого гола для облегчения средств он взял отпуск и поехал прожить с женой лето в деревне у брата Прасковьи Федоровны.
In order to save money that summer he obtained leave of absence and went with his wife to live in the country at her brother’s place.
В деревне, без службы Иван Ильич в первый раз почувствовал не только скуку, но тоску невыносимую, и решил, что так жить нельзя и необходимо принять какие-нибудь решительные меры.
In the country, without his work, he experienced ennui for the first time in his life, and not only ennui but intolerable depression, and he decided that it was impossible to go on living like that, and that it was necessary to take energetic measures.
Проведя бессонную ночь, которую всю Иван Ильич проходил по террасе, он решил ехать в Петербург хлопотать и, чтобы наказать их, тех, которые не умели оценить его, перейти в другое министерство.
Having passed a sleepless night pacing up and down the veranda, he decided to go to Petersburg and bestir himself, in order to punish those who had failed to appreciate him and to get transferred to another ministry.
На другой день, несмотря на все отговоры жены и шурина, он поехал в Петербург.
Next day, despite many protests from his wife and her brother, he set off for Petersburg.
Он ехал за одним; выпросить место в пять тысяч жалованья. Он уже не держался никакого министерства, направления или рода деятельности. Ему нужно только было место, место с пятью тысячами, по администрации, по банкам, по железным дорогам, по учреждениям императрицы Марии, даже таможни, но непременно пять тысяч и непременно выйти из министерства, где не умели оценить его.
He went with the sole object of obtaining a post with a salary of five thousand rubles a year. He was no longer bent on any particular department, or tendency, or kind of activity. All he now wanted was an appointment to another post with a salary of five thousand rubles, either in the administration, in the banks, with the railways, in one of the Empress Marya’s Institutions, or even in the customs — but it had to carry with it a salary of five thousand rubles and be in a ministry other than that in which they had failed to appreciate him.
И вот эта поездка Ивана Ильича увенчалась удивительным, неожиданным успехом. В Курске подсел в первый класс Ф. С. Ильин, знакомый, и сообщил свежую телеграмму, полученную курским губернатором, что в министерстве произойдет на днях переворот: на место Петра Ивановича назначают Ивана Семеновича.
And this quest of Ivan Ilych’s was crowned with remarkable and unexpected success. At Kursk an acquaintance of his, F. I. Ilyin, got into the first-class carriage, sat down beside Ivan Ilych, and told him of a telegram just received by the governor of Kursk announcing that a change was about to take place in the ministry: Peter Ivanovich was to be superseded by Ivan Semyonovich.
Предполагаемый переворот, кроме своего значения для России, имел особенное значение для Ивана Ильича тем, что он, выдвигая новое лицо, Петра Петровича и, очевидно, его друга Захара Ивановича, был в высшей степени благоприятен для Ивана Ильича. Захар Иванович бил товарищ и друг Ивану Ильичу.
The proposed change, apart from its significance for Russia, had a special significance for Ivan Ilych, because by bringing forward a new man, Peter Petrovich, and consequently his friend Zakhar Ivanovich, it was highly favourable for Ivan Ilych, since Zakhar Ivanovich was a friend and colleague of his.
В Москве известие подтвердилось. А приехав в Петербург, Иван Ильич нашел Захара Ивановича и получил обещание верного места к своем прежнем министерстве юстиции.
In Moscow this news was confirmed, and on reaching Petersburg Ivan Ilych found Zakhar Ivanovich and received a definite promise of an appointment in his former Department of Justice.
Через неделю он телеграфировал жене:
A week later he telegraphed to his wife:
“Захар место Миллера при первом докладе получаю назначение”.
“Zakhar in Miller’s place. I shall receive appointment on presentation of report.”
Иван Ильич благодаря этой перемене лиц неожиданно получил в своем прежнем министерстве такое назначение, в котором он стал на две степени выше своих товарищей: пять тысяч жалованья и подъемных три тысячи пятьсот. Вся досада на прежних врагов своих и на все министерство была забыта, и Иван Ильич был совсем счастлив.
Thanks to this change of personnel, Ivan Ilych had unexpectedly obtained an appointment in his former ministry which placed him two states above his former colleagues besides giving him five thousand rubles salary and three thousand five hundred rubles for expenses connected with his removal. All his ill humour towards his former enemies and the whole department vanished, and Ivan Ilych was completely happy.
Иван Ильич вернулся в деревню веселый, довольный, каким он давно не был. Прасковья Федоровна тоже повеселела, и между ними заключилось перемирие. Иван Ильич рассказывал о том, как его все чествовали в Петербурге, как все те, которые были его врагами, были посрамлены и подличали теперь перед ним, как ему завидуют за его положение, в особенности о том, как все его сильно любили Петербурге.
He returned to the country more cheerful and contented than he had been for a long time. Praskovya Fedorovna also cheered up and a truce was arranged between them. Ivan Ilych told of how he had been feted by everybody in Petersburg, how all those who had been his enemies were put to shame and now fawned on him, how envious they were of his appointment, and how much everybody in Petersburg had liked him.
Прасковья Федоровна выслушивала это и делала вид, что она верит этому, и не противоречила ни в чем, а делала только планы нового устройства жизни в том городе, куда они переезжали. И Иван Ильич с радостью видел, что эти планы были его планы, что они сходятся и что опять его запнувшаяся жизнь приобретает настоящий, свойственный ей, характер веселой приятности и приличия.
Praskovya Fedorovna listened to all this and appeared to believe it. She did not contradict anything, but only made plans for their life in the town to which they were going. Ivan Ilych saw with delight that these plans were his plans, that he and his wife agreed, and that, after a stumble, his life was regaining its due and natural character of pleasant lightheartedness and decorum.
Иван Ильич приехал на короткое время. 10 сентября ему надо было принимать должность и, кроме того, нужно было время устроиться на новом месте, перевезти все из провинции, прикупить, призаказать, еще многое; одним словом, устроиться так, как это решено было в его уме, и почти что точно так же, как это решено было и в душе Прасковьи Федоровны.[2]
Ivan Ilych had come back for a short time only, for he had to take up his new duties on the 10th of September. Moreover, he needed time to settle into the new place, to move all his belongings from the province, and to buy and order many additional things: in a word, to make such arrangements as he had resolved on, which were almost exactly what Praskovya Fedorovna too had decided on.[2]
И теперь, когда все устроилось так удачно, и когда они сходились с женою в цели и, кроме того, мало жили вместе, они так дружно сошлись, как не сходились с первых лет женатой своей жизни. Иван Ильич было думал увезти семью тотчас же, но настояния сестры и зятя, вдруг сделавшимися особенно любезными и родственными к Ивану Ильичу и его семье, сделали то, что Иван Ильич уехал один.[3]
Now that everything had happened so fortunately, and that he and his wife were at one in their aims and moreover saw so little of one another, they got on together better than they had done since the first years of marriage. Ivan Ilych had thought of taking his family away with him at once, but the insistence of his wife’s brother and her sister-in-law, who had suddenly become particularly amiable and friendly to him and his family, induced him to depart alone.[3]
Иван Ильич уехал, и веселое расположение духа, произведенное удачей и согласием с женой, одно усиливающее другое, все время не оставляло его. Нашлась квартира прелестная, то самое, о чем мечтали муж с женой. Широкие, высокие, в старом стиле приемные комнаты, удобный грандиозный кабинет, комнаты для жены и дочери, классная для сына – все как нарочно придумано для них. Иван Ильич сам взялся за устройство, выбирал обои, подкупал мебель, особенно из старья, которому он придавал особенный комильфотный стиль, обивку, и все росло, росло и приходило к тому идеалу, который он составил себе. Когда он до половины устроился, его устройство превзошло его ожиданье. Он понял тот комильфотный, изящный и не пошлый характер, который примет все, когда будет готово. Засыпая, он представлял себе залу, какою она будет. Глядя на гостиную, еще не оконченную, он уже видел камин, экран, этажерку и эти стульчики разбросанные, эти блюды и тарелки по стенам и бронзы, когда они все станут по местам. Его радовала мысль, как он поразит Пашу и Лизаньку,[4] которые тоже имеют к этому вкус. Они никак не ожидают этого. В особенности ему удалось найти и купить дешево старые вещи, которые придавали всему особенно благородный характер. Он в письмах своих нарочно представлял все хуже, чем есть, чтобы поразить их. Все это так занимало его, что даже новая служба его, любящего это дело, занимала меньше, чем он ожидал. В заседаниях у него бывали минуты рассеянности: он задумывался о том, какие карнизы на гардины, прямые или подобранные. Он так был занят этим, что сам часто возился, переставлял даже мебель и сам перевешивал гардины. Раз он влез на лесенку, чтобы показать непонимающему обойщику, как он хочет драпировать, оступился и упал,[5] но, как сильный и ловкий человек, удержался, только боком стукнулся об ручку рамы. Ушиб поболел, но скоро прошел – Иван Ильич чувствовал себя все это время особенно веселым и здоровым. Он писал: чувствую, что с меня соскочило лет пятнадцать.[6] Он думал кончить в сентябре, но затянулось до половины октября. Зато было прелестно, – не только он говорил, но ему говорили все, кто видели.
So he departed, and the cheerful state of mind induced by his success and by the harmony between his wife and himself, the one intensifying the other, did not leave him. He found a delightful house, just the thing both he and his wife had dreamt of. Spacious, lofty reception rooms in the old style, a convenient and dignified study, rooms for his wife and daughter, a study for his son — it might have been specially built for them. Ivan Ilych himself superintended the arrangements, chose the wallpapers, supplemented the furniture (preferably with antiques which he considered particularly comme il faut), and supervised the upholstering. Everything progressed and progressed and approached the ideal he had set himself: even when things were only half completed they exceeded his expectations. He saw what a refined and elegant character, free from vulgarity, it would all have when it was ready. On falling asleep he pictured to himself how the reception room would look. Looking at the yet unfinished drawing room he could see the fireplace, the screen, the what-not cabinet, the little chairs dotted here and there, the dishes and plates on the walls, and the bronzes, as they would be when everything was in place. He was pleased by the thought of how Pasha and Lizan’ka,[4] who shared his taste in this matter, would be impressed by it. They were certainly not expecting as much. He had been particularly successful in finding, and buying cheaply, antiques which gave a particularly aristocratic character to the whole place. But in his letters he intentionally understated everything in order to be able to surprise them. All this so absorbed him that his new duties — though he liked his official work — interested him less than he had expected. Sometimes he even had moments of absent-mindedness during the court sessions and would consider whether he should have straight or curved cornices for his curtains. He was so interested in it all that he often did things himself, rearranging the furniture, or rehanging the curtains. Once when mounting a step-ladder to show the upholsterer, who did not understand, how he wanted the hangings draped, he mad a false step and slipped,[5] but being a strong and agile man he clung on and only knocked his side against the knob of the window frame. The bruised place was painful but the pain soon passed, and he felt particularly bright and well just then. He wrote: “I feel fifteen years younger.”[6] He thought he would have everything ready by September, but it dragged on till mid-October. But the result was charming not only in his eyes but to everyone who saw it.
В сущности же, было то самое, что бывает у всех не совсем богатых людей, но таких, которые хотят быть похожими на богатых и потому только похожи друг на друга: штофы, черное дерево, цветы, ковры и бронзы. Темное и блестящее, – все то, что все известного рода люди делают, чтобы быть похожими на всех людей известного рода. И у него было так похоже, что нельзя было даже обратить внимание; но ему все это казалось чем-то особенным. Когда он встретил своих на станции железной дороги, привез их в свою освещенную готовую квартиру и лакей в белом галстуке отпер дверь в убранную цветами переднюю, а потом они вошли в гостиную, кабинет и ахали от удовольствия, – он был очень счастлив, водил их везде, впивал в себя их похвалы и сиял от удовольствия. В этот же вечер, когда за чаем Прасковья Федоровна спросила его, между прочим, как он упал, он засмеялся и в лицах представил, как он полетел и испугал обойщика.
In reality it was just what is usually seen in the houses of people of moderate means who want to appear rich, and therefore succeed only in resembling others like themselves: there are damasks, dark wood, plants, rugs, and dull and polished bronzes — all the things people of a certain class have in order to resemble other people of that class. His house was so like the others that it would never have been noticed, but to him it all seemed to be quite exceptional. He was very happy when he met his family at the station and brought them to the newly furnished house all lit up, where a footman in a white tie opened the door into the hall decorated with plants, and when they went on into the drawing-room and the study uttering exclamations of delight. He conducted them everywhere, drank in their praises eagerly, and beamed with pleasure. At tea that evening, when Praskovya Fedorovna among others things asked him about his fall, he laughed, and showed them how he had gone flying and had frightened the upholsterer.
– Я недаром гимнаст. Другой бы убился,[7] а я чуть ударился вот тут; когда тронешь – больно, но уже проходит; просто синяк.
“It’s a good thing I’m a bit of an athlete. Another man might have been killed,[7] but I merely knocked myself, just here; it hurts when it’s touched, but it’s passing off already — it’s only a bruise.”
И они начали жить в новом помещении, в котором, как всегда, когда хорошенько обжились, недоставало только одной комнаты, и с новыми средствами, к которым, как всегда, только немножко – каких-нибудь пятьсот рублей – недоставало, и было очень хорошо. Особенно было хорошо первое время, когда еще не все было устроено и надо было еще устраивать: то купить, то заказать, то переставить, то наладить. Хоть и были некоторые несогласия между мужем и женой, но оба так были довольны итак много было дела, что все кончалось без больших ссор. Когда уже нечего было устраивать, стало немножко скучно и чего-то недоставать, но тут уже сделались знакомства, привычки, и жизнь наполнилась.
So they began living in their new home — in which, as always happens, when they got thoroughly settled in they found they were just one room short — and with the increased income, which as always was just a little (some five hundred rubles) too little, but it was all very nice. Things went particularly well at first, before everything was finally arranged and while something had still to be done: this thing bought, that thing ordered, another thing moved, and something else adjusted. Though there were some disputes between husband and wife, they were both so well satisfied and had so much to do that it all passed off without any serious quarrels. When nothing was left to arrange it became rather dull and something seemed to be lacking, but they were then making acquaintances, forming habits, and life was growing fuller.
Иван Ильич, проведши утро в суде, возвращался к обеду, и первое время расположение его духа было хорошо, хотя и страдало немного именно от помещения. (Всякое пятно на скатерти, на штофе, оборванный снурок гардины раздражали его: он столько труда положил на устройство, что ему больно было всякое разрушение.)[8] Но вообще жизнь Ивана Ильича пошла так, как, по его вере, должна была протекать жизнь:[9] легко, приятно и прилично. Вставал он в девять, пил кофе, читал газету, потом надевал вицмундир и ехал в суд. Там уже был обмят тот хомут, в котором он работал; он сразу попадал в него. Просители, справки в канцелярии, сама канцелярия, заседания – публичные и распорядительные. Во всем этом надо было уметь исключать все то сырое, жизненное, что всегда нарушает правильность течения служебных дел: надо не допускать с людьми никаких отношений, помимо служебных, и повод к отношениям должен быть только служебный и самые отношения только служебные. Например, приходит человек и желает узнать что-нибудь, Иван Ильич как человек недолжностной и не может иметь никаких отношений к такому человеку; но если есть отношение этого человека как к члену, такое, которое может быть выражено на бумаге с заголовком, – в пределах этих отношений Иван Ильич делает все, все решительно, что можно, и при этом соблюдает подобие человеческих дружелюбных отношений, то есть учтивость. Как только кончается отношение служебное, так кончается всякое другое. Этим умением отделять служебную сторону, не смешивая ее с своей настоящей жизнью, Иван Ильич владел в высшей степени и долгой практикой и талантом выработал его до такой степени, что он даже, как виртуоз, иногда позволял себе, как бы шутя, смешивать человеческое и служебное отношения.[10] Он позволял это себе потому, что чувствовал в себе силу всегда, когда ему понадобится, опять выделить одно служебное и откинуть человеческое. Дело это шло у Ивана Ильича не только легко, приятно и прилично, но даже виртуозно. В промежутки он курил, пил чай, беседовал немножко о политике, немножко об общих делах, немножко о картах и больше всего о назначениях. И усталый, но с чувством виртуоза, отчетливо отделавшего свою партию, одну из первых скрипок в оркестре, возвращался домой. Дома дочь с матерью куда-нибудь ездили или у них был кто-нибудь; сын был в гимназии, готовил уроки с репетиторами и учился исправно тому, чему учат в гимназии. Все было хорошо. После обеда, если не было гостей, Иван Ильич читал иногда книгу, про которую много говорят, и вечером садился за дела, то есть читал бумаги, справлялся с законами, – сличал показания и подводил под законы. Ему это было ни скучно, ни весело. Скучно было, когда можно было играть в винт:[11] но если не было винта – то это было все-таки лучше, чем сидеть одному или с женой. Удовольствия же Ивана Ильича были обеды маленькие, на которые он звал важных по светскому положению дам и мужчин, и такое времяпровождение с ними, которое было бы похоже на обыкновенное препровождение времени таких людей, так же как гостиная его была похожа на все гостиные.
Ivan Ilych spent his mornings at the law court and came home to diner, and at first he was generally in a good humour, though he occasionally became irritable just on account of his house. (Every spot on the tablecloth or the upholstery, and every broken window-blind string, irritated him. He had devoted so much trouble to arranging it all that every disturbance of it distressed him.)[8] But on the whole his life ran its course as he believed life should do:[9] easily, pleasantly, and decorously. He got up at nine, drank his coffee, read the paper, and then put on his undress uniform and went to the law courts. There the harness in which he worked had already been stretched to fit him and he donned it without a hitch: petitioners, inquiries at the chancery, the chancery itself, and the sittings public and administrative. In all this the thing was to exclude everything fresh and vital, which always disturbs the regular course of official business, and to admit only official relations with people, and then only on official grounds. A man would come, for instance, wanting some information. Ivan Ilych, as one in whose sphere the matter did not lie, would have nothing to do with him: but if the man had some business with him in his official capacity, something that could be expressed on officially stamped paper, he would do everything, positively everything he could within the limits of such relations, and in doing so would maintain the semblance of friendly human relations, that is, would observe the courtesies of life. As soon as the official relations ended, so did everything else. Ivan Ilych possessed this capacity to separate his real life from the official side of affairs and not mix the two, in the highest degree, and by long practice and natural aptitude had brought it to such a pitch that sometimes, in the manner of a virtuoso, he would even allow himself to let the human and official relations mingle.[10] He let himself do this just because he felt that he could at any time he chose resume the strictly official attitude again and drop the human relation. and he did it all easily, pleasantly, correctly, and even artistically. In the intervals between the sessions he smoked, drank tea, chatted a little about politics, a little about general topics, a little about cards, but most of all about official appointments. Tired, but with the feelings of a virtuoso — one of the first violins who has played his part in an orchestra with precision — he would return home to find that his wife and daughter had been out paying calls, or had a visitor, and that his son had been to school, had done his homework with his tutor, and was surely learning what is taught at High Schools. Everything was as it should be. After dinner, if they had no visitors, Ivan Ilych sometimes read a book that was being much discussed at the time, and in the evening settled down to work, that is, read official papers, compared the depositions of witnesses, and noted paragraphs of the Code applying to them. This was neither dull nor amusing. It was dull when he might have been playing bridge,[11] but if no bridge was available it was at any rate better than doing nothing or sitting with his wife. Ivan Ilych’s chief pleasure was giving little dinners to which he invited men and women of good social position, and just as his drawing-room resembled all other drawing-rooms so did his enjoyable little parties resemble all other such parties.
Один раз у них был даже вечер, танцевали. И Ивану Ильичу было весело, и все было хорошо, только вышла большая ссора с женой из-за тортов и конфет: у Прасковьи Федоровны был свой план, а Иван Ильич настоял на том, чтобы взять все у дорогого кондитера, и взял много тортов, и ссора была за то, что торты остались, а счет кондитера был в сорок пять рублей. Ссора была большая и неприятная, так что Прасковья Федоровна сказала ему: “Дурак, кисляй”. А он схватил себя за голову и в сердцах что-то упомянул о разводе. Но самый вечер был веселый. Было лучшее общество, и Иван Ильич танцевал с княгинею Труфоновой, сестрою той, которая известна учреждением общества “Унеси ты мое горе”.[12]
Once they even gave a dance. Ivan Ilych enjoyed it and everything went off well, except that it led to a violent quarrel with his wife about the cakes and sweets. Praskovya Fedorovna had made her own plans, but Ivan Ilych insisted on getting everything from an expensive confectioner and ordered too many cakes, and the quarrel occurred because some of those cakes were left over and the confectioner’s bill came to forty-five rubles. It was a great and disagreeable quarrel. Praskovya Fedorovna called him “a fool and an imbecile,” and he clutched at his head and made angry allusions to divorce. But the dance itself had been enjoyable. The best people were there, and Ivan Ilych had danced with Princess Trufonova, a sister of the distinguished founder of the Society “Bear My Burden”.[12]
Радости служебные были радости самолюбия; радости общественные были радости тщеславия; но настоящие радости Ивана Ильича были радости игры в винт.[13] Он признавался, что после всего, после каких бы то ни было событий, нерадостных в его жизни, радость, которая, как свеча, горела перед всеми другими, – это сесть с хорошими игроками и некрикунами-партнерами в винт, и непременно вчетвером (впятером уж очень больно выходить, хотя и притворяешься, что я очень люблю), и вести умную, серьезную игру (когда карты идут), потом поужинать и выпить стакан вина. А спать после винта, особенно когда в маленьком выигрыше (большой – неприятно), Иван Ильич ложился в особенно хорошем расположении духа.[14]
The pleasures connected with his work were pleasures of ambition; his social pleasures were those of vanity; but Ivan Ilych’s greatest pleasure was playing bridge.[13] He acknowledged that whatever disagreeable incident happened in his life, the pleasure that beamed like a ray of light above everything else was to sit down to bridge with good players, not noisy partners, and of course to four-handed bridge (with five players it was annoying to have to stand out, though one pretended not to mind), to play a clever and serious game (when the cards allowed it) and then to have supper and drink a glass of wine. after a game of bridge, especially if he had won a little (to win a large sum was unpleasant), Ivan Ilych went to bed in a specially good humour.[14]
Так они жили. Круг общества составлялся у них самый лучший, ездили и важные люди, и молодые люди.
So they lived. they formed a circle of acquaintances among the best people and were visited by people of importance and by young folk.
Во взгляде на круг своих знакомых муж, жена и дочь были совершенно согласны и, не сговариваясь, одинаково оттирали от себя и освобождались от всяких разных приятелей и родственников, замарашек, которые разлетались к ним с нежностями в гостиную с японскими блюдами по стенам. Скоро эти друзья-замарашки перестали разлетаться, и у Головиных осталось общество одно самое лучшее. Молодые люди ухаживали за Лизанькой, и Петрищев, сын Дмитрия Ивановича Петрищева и единственный наследник его состояния, судебный следователь, стал ухаживать за Лизой, так что Иван Ильич уже поговаривал об этом с Прасковьей Федоровной: не свести ли их кататься на тройках или устроить спектакль. Так они жили. И все шло так, не изменяясь, и все было очень хорошо.[15]
In their views as to their acquaintances, husband, wife and daughter were entirely agreed, and tacitly and unanimously kept at arm’s length and shook off the various shabby friends and relations who, with much show of affection, gushed into the drawing-room with its Japanese plates on the walls. Soon these shabby friends ceased to obtrude themselves and only the best people remained in the Golovins’ set. Young men made up to Lisa, and Petrishchev, an examining magistrate and Dmitri Ivanovich Petrishchev’s son and sole heir, began to be so attentive to her that Ivan Ilych had already spoken to Praskovya Fedorovna about it, and considered whether they should not arrange a party for them, or get up some private theatricals. So they lived, and all went well, without change, and life flowed pleasantly.[15]

  1. The unpleasant circumstance mentioned here is Ivan Ilich's being passed over for an expected promotion. Since the event is "unpleasant" it has no place in Ivan Ilich's "pleasant" life and strikes him, a few lines later, as being most unjust. This unpleasant occurrence may be seen as one of several warnings which Ivan Ilich receives in the story that his "pleasant" and "seemly" and "well-ordered" life is at odds with the real life which surrounds it. In short, Ivan Ilich's skillfully arranged pleasant life may be just as artificial as his clever one-page summaries of the complex matters that come before him in court. Real life has intervened once before, in Praskovya Fyodorovna's changed behavior when pregnant, and now even his official life (into which he had fled to escape Praskovya Fyodorovna's bad behavior) is disrupted by this failure to provide him with the promotion that he believes he has earned. As before, so now, Ivan Ilich will react to this unpleasantness by attempting to isolate himself from it, by leaving it behind and quitting his post in the Ministry of Justice. On this occasion, however, he will be saved by a lucky change in the higher administration of his department. That these disruptions (later referred to as "stumbles") in the pleasant flow of his life may be seen as warnings seems rather clear from a passage some paragraphs later in which Ivan Ilich thinks that "it was impossible to go on living this way." The Russian text has the phrase "tak zhit' nel'zja" which may be understood to mean either that living so is "not possible" or "not permitted." The final indication that Ivan Ilich's life works neither as he imagines it nor as he would prefer it to work is the onset of his illness, which arises from a "stumble" from a step-stool. In the end it is his sickness which finally convinces him that his life, as he had arranged it and lived it, was false and artificial; as Tolstoy writes, his life was not "the real thing."
  2. We may wonder if there is any significance to the fact that the text specifies that all of this was decided in the mind of Ivan Ilich and in the soul of Praskovya Fyodorovna. Perhaps there is a suggestion that Ivan Ilich and his wife are unable to distinguish between the products of the mind and of the soul.
  3. The emphatic repetition in this paragraph of the forms of the verb sxodit'sja/sojtis' ("to come together, to converge") seems to foreground the idea that Ivan Ilich's unexpected promotion, portrayed as a recovery from an unexpected and inappropriate stumble, also restores a welcome sense of unity and togetherness in Ivan Ilich and Praskovya Fyodorovna which has been absent since the very first years of their married life. Not only is the happiness and propriety of their life restored, but also the emotional bond and sense of mutuality between them. And yet this apparent sense of the full repair of Ivan Ilich's life is undercut in at least two ways: the feeling of mutuality and togetherness owes at least some of its strength to the fact that "they lived together very little," and, in the end, Ivan Ilich's intention to move the whole family at once meets resistance and he leaves for the new city alone. The suggestion would appear to be that Ivan Ilich's life has not been substantively changed or mended. He has gotten a higher salary and a promotion in prestige, but the hoped for return of togetherness and emotional convergence proves to be an illusion which can be maintained only so long as the family is not actually together.
  4. Pasha is the diminutive form of Praskovya (Ivan Il'ich's wife) and Lizanka of Elizaveta (their daughter).
  5. Just as metaphors in the text often possess literal significance, so actual occurrences (here, falling off a ladder) often suggest metaphorical associations (the ladder of success, moving up the ladder, rising another rung on the ladder) and may suggest a hidden cause for the actual event. In this case the cause of Ivan Ilich's fall is merely his concern with the proper hanging of the curtains, but the step-ladder indicates a connection to his life in the service and suggests that it is not merely the curtains which precipitate his fall, his injury, and eventually his illness and death, but his entire all-consuming life in the service itself. It is also important to note that what he is attempting to do on the step-ladder is to arrange the curtains properly, and this connects directly with the other various metaphors of screening and enclosure which play so prominent a role in the artistic rhetoric of the novel.
  6. An example of the dark humor of the narrative. In fact, Ivan Il'ich's fall from the step-ladder and the illness which followed would seem to have taken at least 15 years off of his expected span of life. James Rice discusses humor in the novel at length in "Comic Devices in 'The Death of Ivan Il'ich'," Slavic and East European Journal, vol. 47, no. 1 (Spring 2003), 77-95.
  7. The Russian here says, literally, "I am not an athlete for nothing. Another would have killed himself [Russ. 'ubilsja']." This is a powerful indicator, once the principle of seeing the literal in the metaphorical in this story is understood, that Ivan Ilich himself is responsible for the condition in which he will find himself. In lavishing all his attention on the pleasant and proper arrangement of his new apartment, in behaving as though his new apartment were the center and essence of his life, he has actually been killing himself. In this way, apparently casual expressions (remember here the phrase, at the end of Chapter Two, that his life in the service "swallowed" him) point the way to a method of reading the text in which the apparent and the actual are at odds with one another. We begin to see metaphors as exact descriptions; we begin to understand that what seems to be a most pleasant life is actually a kind of death; we understand that apparent disasters (his wife's behavior change in pregnancy; being passed over for promotion) are actually timely warnings of possible rescue (the advent of new life; a chance to come out of the official shell which the service has created for him). At a certain point the logic becomes quite inescapable: his illness is not the cause of his death, but the mechanism which returns him to life.
  8. One thinks here of the similarity between the blemishes on the furnishings, which concern Ivan Ilich so much, and the blemish on himself, the bruise on his side, which he tries to disregard.
  9. The use of the word "вера" here is suggestive; its basic meaning of "belief" fits the surface sense of the statement, but its other associations--"faith," "religion"--might indicate that Ivan Ilich's deep concern with the material objects surrounding him is to him a kind of basic faith or creed.
  10. Even at moments when Ivan Ilich's life has in fact become the pleasant and easy thing he wants it to be we are reminded that this life is not his real life. We understand the text to be referring to the distinction between Ivan Ilich's life at home and his life at the office, but since we know that his home life is not less artificial than his office life we are struck by this oblique reminder that there is, beyond both of these artificial, surrogate lives, a real life which would seem to be uniformly ignored wherever he is.
  11. Vint is a card-game, similar to both bridge and whist, and it is sometimes referred to as Russian whist. Vint means a screw in Russian, and the name is given to the game because the four players, each in turn, propose, bid and overbid each other until one, having bid higher than the others care to follow, makes the trump, and his vis-a-vis plays as his partner. (Source: Wikipedia)
  12. The name of a charitable society, fictional, but characteristic of the time.
  13. It would be hard to miss the importance of the image of playing cards to the novel, so insistent is Tolstoy's repetition of it. Ivan Ilich's love affair with the game of vint provides a virtual index of the history of his life. We first hear of it as a new and more dignified social activity gradually displacing dancing and other more youthful pursuits by the increasingly successful official following his early promotions. Later it becomes a favorite activity, and here it is said to be the real joy of his life. In following chapters the increasing physical distress of his illness causes him to be every more seriously "off his game," culminating (in Chapter Four) in his spoiling an entire evening of cards with his resentment at his own egregious misplaying of a hand. By Chapter Six card playing has disappeared altogether along with virtually all of Ivan Ilich's other social activities. Thus, vint is not only the "real joy" of his life but a symbol of that life itself, and it is instructive to consider the elements of the image of the game. It is played by partners who sit opposite and never touch one another (unlike dancing, the activity it replaced in Ivan Ilich's earlier life); it is played according to strict rules of speaking (the bidding must consist only of pre-determined phrases, many of which are referred to as "conventions") and play (taking turns, correctness of play, close attention to the game to prevent embarrassing blunders). In short, vint is a vivid example of rule-bound, conventional, controlled, and highly decorous activity. As such, it mirrors very closely Ivan Ilich's ideal for his own life, an ideal which he tries to realize in the furnishing and arrangement of the apartment in which he lives. We have seen how it was that effort that led to his fall and the injury which precipitated the onset of his illness. The game, the furnishings, the life of the office, the company he keeps are Ivan Ilich's life--and from them emerges illness and death. Again, that which seems to be one thing is in fact its opposite; Ivan Ilich's life is actually his death.
  14. The sentence as a whole means: "After vint, and especially after a narrow victory (a large margin of victory is unpleasant), Ivan Ilich would lie down to sleep in a particularly good mood." But the manner in which the sentence is arranged conveys an alternate, and more somber, impression. By dividing the phrase "lozhilsja spat'" ("(he) lay down to sleep') into two parts and reversing the order of the words Tolstoy produces a significant association with the final phrase of the preceding sentence, thus: "to drink a glass of wine. And to sleep after vint . . ." There is a play on words here as well: in Russian "wine" is "vino," matching closely enough with "vint" as to suggest that "vint" is interchangeable with "vino," a drug, a soporific, and that the result of each of them is unconsciousness, oblivion, sleep. Tolstoy elaborates his attitude toward alcohol as a means of hiding from imbibers the awfulness of their empty lives in an essay written not long after "Death of Ivan Ilich" called "Why Do People Stupefy Themselves?"
  15. This is the starting point of what is perhaps the most direct verbal reminder that things are not what they appear to be. It begins here at the end of chapter three and recurs throughout the final four chapters of the novel. Maude renders the last paragraph of chapter three as "So (Russ. "tak") they lived. And everything went along so (Russ. "tak")." Ivan Ilich's life is identified as "just so." In the last four chapters of the novel the thought that, strange as it seems, his life had been lived "wrongly" (as Maude translates it) occurs several times to Ivan Ilich. An exact translation of these passages would be that "he lived not so (Russ. "ne tak:)" with the result that his life, which had been thought to be "just so" turns out to have been its binary opposite ("not just so") instead, that in fact his "life" was really a form or intimation of death.