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

Chapter 5

Так шло месяц и два. Перед Новым годом приехал в их город его шурин и остановился у них. Иван Ильич был в суде. Прасковья Федоровна ездила за покупками. Войдя к себе в кабинет, он застал там шурина, здорового сангвиника, самого раскладывающего чемодан. Он поднял голову на шаги Ивана Ильича и поглядел на него секунду молча. Этот взгляд все открыл Ивану Ильичу. Шурин раскрыл рот, чтоб ахнуть, и удержался. Это движение подтвердило все.
So one month passed and then another. Just before the New Year his brother-in-law came to town and stayed at their house. Ivan Ilych was at the law courts and Praskovya Fedorovna had gone shopping. When Ivan Ilych came home and entered his study he found his brother-in-law there — a healthy, florid man — unpacking his portmanteau himself. He raised his head on hearing Ivan Ilych’s footsteps and looked up at him for a moment without a word. That stare told Ivan Ilych everything. His brother-in-law opened his mouth to utter an exclamation of surprise but checked himself, and that action confirmed it all.
– Что, переменился?
“I have changed, eh?”
– Да… есть перемена.
“Yes, there is a change.”
И сколько Иван Ильич ни наводил после шурина на разговор о его внешнем виде, шурин отмалчивался. Приехала Прасковья Федоровна, шурин пошел к ней. Иван Ильич запер дверь на ключ и стал смотреться в зеркало – прямо, потом сбоку. Взял свой портрет с женою и сличил портрет с тем, что он видел в зеркале. Перемена была огромная. Потом он оголил руки до локтя, посмотрел, опустил рукава, сел на оттоманку и стал чернее ночи.
And after that, try as he would to get his brother-in-law to return to the subject of his looks, the latter would say nothing about it. Praskovya Fedorovna came home and her brother went out to her. Ivan Ilych locked the door and began to examine himself in the glass, first full face, then in profile. He took up a portrait of himself taken with his wife, and compared it with what he saw in the glass. The change in him was immense. Then he bared his arms to the elbow, looked at them, drew the sleeves down again, sat down on an ottoman, and grew blacker than night.
“Не надо, не надо”, – сказал он себе, вскочил, подошел к столу, открыл дело, стал читать его, но не мог. Он отпер дверь, пошел в залу. Дверь в гостиную была затворена. Он подошел к ней на цыпочках и стал слушать.
“No, no, this won’t do!” he said to himself, and jumped up, went to the table, took up some law papers and began to read them, but could not continue. He unlocked the door and went into the reception-room. The door leading to the drawing-room was shut. He approached it on tiptoe and listened.
– Нет, ты преувеличиваешь, – говорила Прасковья Федоровна.
“No, you are exaggerating!” Praskovya Fedorovna was saying.
– Как преувеличиваю? Тебе не видно – он мертвый человек, посмотри его глаза. Нет света. Да что у него?[1]
“Exaggerating! Don’t you see it? Why, he’s a dead man! Look at his eyes — there’s no life in them. But what is it that is wrong with him?”[1]
– Никто не знает. Николаев (это был другой доктор) сказал что-то, но я не знаю. Лещетицкий (это был знаменитый доктор) сказал напротив…
“No one knows. Nikolaevich [that was another doctor] said something, but I don’t know what. And Leshchetitsky [this was the celebrated specialist] said quite the contrary…”
Иван Ильич отошел, пошел к себе, лег и стал думать: “Почка, блуждающая почка”.[2] Он вспомнил все то, что ему говорили доктора, как она оторвалась и как блуждает. И он усилием воображения старался поймать эту почку и остановить, укрепить ее: так мало нужно, казалось ему. “Нет, поеду еще к Петру Ивановичу”. (Это был тот приятель, у которого был приятель доктор.) Он позвонил, велел заложить лошадь и собрался ехать.
Ivan Ilych walked away, went to his own room, lay down, and began musing; “The kidney, a floating kidney.”[2] He recalled all the doctors had told him of how it detached itself and swayed about. And by an effort of imagination he tried to catch that kidney and arrest it and support it. So little was needed for this, it seemed to him. “No, I’ll go to see Peter Ivanovich again.” [That was the friend whose friend was a doctor.] He rang, ordered the carriage, and got ready to go.
– Куда ты, Jean? – спросила жена с особенно грустным и непривычно добрым выражением.
“Where are you going, Jean?” asked his wife with a specially sad and exceptionally kind look.
Это непривычное доброе озлобило его. Он мрачно посмотрел на нее.[3]
This exceptionally kind look irritated him. He looked morosely at her.[3]
– Мне надо к Петру Ивановичу.
“I must go to see Peter Ivanovich.”
Он поехал к приятелю, у которого был приятель доктор. И с ним к доктору. Он застал его и долго беседовал с ним.
He went to see Peter Ivanovich, and together they went to see his friend, the doctor. He was in, and Ivan Ilych had a long talk with him.
Рассматривая анатомически и физиологически подробности о том, что, по мнению доктора, происходило в нем, он все понял.[4]
Reviewing the anatomical and physiological details of what in the doctor’s opinion was going on inside him, he understood it all.[4]
Была одна штучка, маленькая штучка в слепой кишке.[5] Все это могло поправиться. Усилить энергию одного органа, ослабить деятельность другого, произойдет всасывание, и все поправится. Он немного опоздал к обеду. Пообедал, весело поговорил, но долго не мог уйти к себе заниматься. Наконец он пошел в кабинет и тотчас же сел за работу. Он читал дела, работал, но сознание того, что у него есть отложенное важное задушевное дело, которым он займется по окончании, не оставляло его. Когда он кончил дела, он вспомнил, что это задушевное дело были мысли о слепой кишке. Но он не предался им, он пошел в гостиную к чаю. Были гости, говорили и играли на фортепиано, пели; был судебный следователь, желанный жених у дочери. Иван Ильич провел вечер, по замечанию Прасковьи Федоровны, веселее других, но он не забывал ни на минуту, что у него есть отложенные важные мысли о слепой кишке.[6] В одиннадцать часов он простился и пошел к себе. Он спал один со времени своей болезни, в маленькой комнатке у кабинета. Он пошел, разделся и взял роман Золя,[7] но не читал его, а думал. И в его воображении происходило то желанное исправление слепой кишки. Всасывалось, выбрасывалось, восстановлялась правильная деятельность. “Да, это все так, – сказал он себе. – Только надо помогать природе”. Он вспомнил о лекарствах, приподнялся, принял его, лег на спину, прислушиваясь к тому, как благотворно действует лекарство и как оно уничтожает боль. “Только равномерно принимать и избегать вредных влияний; я уже теперь чувствую несколько лучше, гораздо лучше”. Он стал щупать бок, – на ощупь не больно. “Да, я не чувствую, право, уже гораздо лучше”. Он потушил свечу и лег на бок… Слепая кишка исправляется, всасывается. Вдруг он почувствовал знакомую старую, глухую, ноющую боль, упорную, тихую, серьезную.[8] Во рту та же знакомая гадость. Засосало сердце, помутилось в голове. “Боже мой, Боже мой! – проговорил он. – Опять, опять, и никогда не перестанет”. И вдруг ему дело представилось совсем с другой стороны. “Слепая кишка? Почка, – сказал он себе. – Не в слепой кишке, не в почке дело, а в жизни и… смерти. Да, жизнь была и вот уходит, уходит, и я не могу удержать ее. Да. Зачем обманывать себя? Разве не очевидно всем, кроме меня, что я умираю, и вопрос только в числе недель, дней – сейчас, может быть. То свет был, а теперь мрак. То я здесь был, а теперь туда! Куда?” Его обдало холодом, дыхание остановилось. Он слышал только удары сердца.
There was something, a small thing, in the vermiform appendix.[5] It might all come right. Only stimulate the energy of one organ and check the activity of another, then absorption would take place and everything would come right. He got home rather late for dinner, ate his dinner, and conversed cheerfully, but could not for a long time bring himself to go back to work in his room. At last, however, he went to his study and did what was necessary, but the consciousness that he had put something aside — an important, intimate matter which he would revert to when his work was done — never left him. When he had finished his work he remembered that this intimate matter was the thought of his vermiform appendix.[6] But he did not give himself up to it, and went to the drawing-room for tea. There were callers there, including the examining magistrate who was a desirable match for his daughter, and they were conversing, playing the piano, and singing. Ivan Ilych, as Praskovya Fedorovna remarked, spent that evening more cheerfully than usual, but he never for a moment forgot that he had postponed the important matter of the appendix. At eleven o’clock he said goodnight and went to his bedroom. Since his illness he had slept alone in a small room next to his study. He undressed and took up a novel by Zola,[7] but instead of reading it he fell into thought, and in his imagination that desired improvement in the vermiform appendix occurred. There was the absorption and evacuation and the re-establishment of normal activity. “Yes, that’s it!” he said to himself. “One need only assist nature, that’s all.” He remembered his medicine, rose, took it, and lay down on his back watching for the beneficent action of the medicine and for it to lessen the pain. “I need only take it regularly and avoid all injurious influences. I am already feeling better, much better.” He began touching his side: it was not painful to the touch. “There, I really don’t feel it. It’s much better already.” He put out the light and turned on his side … “The appendix is getting better, absorption is occurring.” Suddenly he felt the old, familiar, dull, gnawing pain, stubborn and serious.[8] There was the same familiar loathsome taste in his mouth. His heart sank and he felt dazed. “My God! My God!” he muttered. “Again, again! And it will never cease.” And suddenly the matter presented itself in a quite different aspect. “Vermiform appendix! Kidney!” he said to himself. “It’s not a question of appendix or kidney, but of life and…death. Yes, life was there and now it is going, going and I cannot stop it. Yes. Why deceive myself? Isn’t it obvious to everyone but me that I’m dying, and that it’s only a question of weeks, days…it may happen this moment. There was light and now there is darkness. I was here and now I’m going there! Where?” A chill came over him, his breathing ceased, and he felt only the throbbing of his heart.
“Меня не будет, так что же будет? Ничего не будет. Так где же я буду, когда меня не будет? Неужели смерть? Нет, не хочу”. Он вскочил, хотел зажечь свечку, пошарил дрожащими руками, уронил свечу с подсвечником на пол и опять повалился назад, на подушку. “Зачем? Все равно, – говорил он себе, открытыми глазами глядя в темноту. – Смерть, Да, смерть. И они никто не знают, и не хотят знать, и не жалеют. Они играют. (Он слышал дальние, из-за двери, раскат голоса и ритурнели.) Им все равно, а они также умрут. Дурачье. Мне раньше, а им после; и им то же будет. А они радуются. Скоты!” Злоба душила его. И ему стало мучительно, невыносимо тяжело. Не может же быть, чтоб все всегда были обречены на этот ужасный страх. Он поднялся.
“When I am not, what will there be? There will be nothing. Then where shall I be when I am no more? Can this be dying? No, I don’t want to!” He jumped up and tried to light the candle, felt for it with trembling hands, dropped candle and candlestick on the floor, and fell back on his pillow. “What’s the use? It makes no difference,” he said to himself, staring with wide-open eyes into the darkness. “Death. Yes, death. And none of them knows or wishes to know it, and they have no pity for me. Now they are playing.” (He heard through the door the distant sound of a song and its accompaniment.) “It’s all the same to them, but they will die too! Fools! I first, and they later, but it will be the same for them. And now they are merry…the beasts!” Anger choked him and he was agonizingly, unbearably miserable. “It is impossible that all men have been doomed to suffer this awful horror!” He raised himself.
“Что-нибудь не так; надо успокоиться, надо обдумать все сначала”. И вот он начал обдумывать. “Да, начало болезни. Стукнулся боком, и все такой же я был, и нынче и завтра; немного ныло, потом больше, потом доктора, потом унылость, тоска, опять доктора; а я все шел ближе, ближе к пропасти. Сил меньше. Ближе, ближе. И вот я исчах, у меня света в глазах нет. И смерть, а я думаю о кишке. Думаю о том, чтобы починить кишку, а это смерть. Неужели смерть?” Опять на него нашел ужас, он запыхался, нагнулся, стал искать спичек, надавил локтем на тумбочку. Она мешала ему и делала больно, он разозлился на нее, надавил с досадой сильнее и повалил тумбочку. И в отчаянии задыхаясь, он повалился на спину, ожидая сейчас же смерти.
“Something must be wrong. I must calm myself — must think it all over from the beginning.” And he again began thinking. “Yes, the beginning of my illness: I knocked my side, but I was still quite well that day and the next. It hurt a little, then rather more. I saw the doctors, then followed despondency and anguish, more doctors, and I drew nearer to the abyss. My strength grew less and I kept coming nearer and nearer, and now I have wasted away and there is no light in my eyes. I think of the appendix — but this is death! I think of mending the appendix, and all the while here is death! Can it really be death?” Again terror seized him and he gasped for breath. He leant down and began feeling for the matches, pressing with his elbow on the stand beside the bed. It was in his way and hurt him, he grew furious with it, pressed on it still harder, and upset it. Breathless and in despair he fell on his back, expecting death to come immediately.
Гости уезжали в это время. Прасковья Федоровна провожала их. Она услыхала падение и вошла.
Meanwhile the visitors were leaving. Praskovya Fedorovna was seeing them off. She heard something fall and came in.
– Что ты?
“What has happened?”
– Ничего. Уронил нечаянно.
“Nothing. I knocked it over accidentally.”
Она вышла, принесла свечу. Он лежал, тяжело и быстро-быстро дыша, как человек, который пробежал версту, остановившимися глазами глядя на нее.
She went out and returned with a candle. He lay there panting heavily, like a man who has run a thousand yards, and stared upwards at her with a fixed look.
– Что ты, Jean?
“What is it, Jean?”
– Ниче…го. У…ро…нил. – “Что же говорить. Она не поймет”, – думал он.
“No…o…thing. I upset it.” (“Why speak of it? She won’t understand,” he thought.)
Она точно не поняла. Она подняла, зажгла ему свечу и поспешно ушла: ей надо было проводить гостью.
And in truth she did not understand. She picked up the stand, lit his candle, and hurried away to see another visitor off.
Когда она вернулась, он так же лежал навзничь, глядя вверх.
When she came back he still lay on his back, looking upwards.
– Что тебе, или хуже?
“What is it? Do you feel worse?”
– Да.
“Yes.”
Она покачала головой, посидела. – Знаешь, Jean, я думаю, не пригласить ли Лещетицкого на дом.
She shook her head and sat down. “Do you know, Jean, I think we must ask Leshchetitsky to come and see you here.”
Это значит знаменитого доктора пригласить и не пожалеть денег. Он ядовито улыбнулся и сказал; “Нет”. Она посидела, подошла и поцеловала его в лоб.
This meant calling in the famous specialist, regardless of expense. He smiled malignantly and said “No.” She remained a little longer and then went up to him and kissed his forehead.
Он ненавидел ее всеми силами души в то время, как она целовала его,[9] и делал усилия, чтобы не оттолкнуть ее.
While she was kissing him he hated her from the bottom of his soul[9] and with difficulty refrained from pushing her away.
– Прощай.[10] Бог даст, заснешь.
“Good night.[10] Please God you’ll sleep.”
– Да.
“Yes.”

  1. The first four chapters of the novel have brought Ivan Ilich to a point where his illness has developed so far as to be out of control. So serious is the situation that Ivan Ilich seems already near death. His visiting brother-in-law here states that Ivan Ilich is already a dead man. This emphasis upon the extent to which Ivan's condition has already deteriorated continues throughout chapter five and at the end of chapter six he even imagines that he sees "death" looking at him from behind some flowers in the sitting room. The reader may well wonder why such emphasis is placed on Ivan's death, or his nearness to death, or the apparition of death at this point in the novel. After all, there are still six more chapters (half of the novel, if we are counting chapters) before he will in fact die. Let us note, at least, that Ivan is, in a sense, pronounced virtually dead already in chapters five and six, and that it is therefore possible that the final six chapters will be concerned to do more than provide further repetition of this motif. At the least it is clear that Ivan Ilich might as well be dead at this point, that his life is really just a kind of death.
  2. According to Wikipedia "Nephroptosis (also called floating kidney or renal ptosis) is an abnormal condition in which the kidney drops down into the pelvis when the patient stands up." The Russian for "floating kidney" ("bluzhdajushchaja pochka") derives from the word "bluzhdat'" ("to roam, wander") and is etymologically related to the root "blud-" found in such words as "bludnitsa" ("loose woman, whore") and "bludnoj syn" (the Biblical "prodigal son"). Thus, there is a subtle implication of sin, improper behavior (a roaming beyond the permitted boundaries) in this possible diagnosis of "whatever is the matter with" Ivan Ilich. And yet we have been told that Ivan Ilich's life has been a model of staying within the bounds of decency and appropriateness. Two possibilities suggest themselves: the "floating kidney" has really nothing to do with what ails Ivan Ilich and is simply a mockery of the doctors' incompetence, or Ivan Ilich has mistaken the life he has been leading for real life (perhaps it has only been as real as a game of cards) and that he has mistakenly wandered away from real life into an inauthentic and counterfeit existence. In this case the pretentious incompetence of the doctors' is caused by their looking in the wrong place for the illness besetting Ivan Ilich; what is really besetting him is spiritual rather than material in origin. As always, the narrative is so constructed that both of these outlooks are correct with the spiritual narrative of view encased within the material one.
  3. Note how Tolstoy colors Ivan Ilich's behavior. Here he "looked at her darkly"; earlier in the chapter his expression "became blacker than night." Thus, his actions in life take on the funereal color of death. This is in the same vein as the emphasis on the black clothing worn by all the living people in Chapter One of the novel and Ivan's particular resentment of Schwartz ("black" in German) whose liveliness and playfulness (=life is a game) remind him of himself in younger and healthier days.
  4. Since this diagnosis, too, will come to nothing the phrasing here suggests that neither the anatomical nor the physiological facts have any relevance to the question of what is wrong with Ivan Ilich.
  5. As the diagnosis of the floating kidney suggested the idea of "going astray" so, too, does the suspicion of trouble in the "blind gut" (i.e., the appendix) suggest the idea of the complete inability to see what is wrong, of blindness to the actual cause of Ivan Ilich's trouble.
  6. Tolstoy uses the word "zadushevnyj" ("intimate, sincere") to describe the need to think inwardly about the "anatomical and physiological" details of the operation of the blind gut. The word "zadushevnyj," however, is derived from the root word "dusha" ("soul") and thus clearly suggests Ivan Ilich's complete confusion of his spiritual life with his physiological life; put another way, Ivan Ilich is unaware of his "soul," his spiritual life, and is spiritually dead. Even if only obliquely and etymologically, however, it would seem that, at last, and apparently for the first time in a long time, the conception of an inner, spiritual life has at last occurred to him. In Chapter Six he will remind himself that he "lived by his official duties," that he thought that his official life was his life. It is perhaps not strange then that he thinks that his inner life involves no more than the condition of his colon. Almost at once, though, his pain drives him to the thought that it is "not a question of my appendix or my kidney, but of life . . . and death" and soon thereafter: "I think of mending my appendix, and all the while here comes death!" Thus, the ground is prepared of the first mention, in Chapter Six, of an "inner voice," the voice of that life within, a life quite distinct from the life which Ivan Ilich has made for himself.
  7. Emile Zola (1840-92), a French writer, author of many popular novels.
  8. Ivan Ilich's pain is here described by the use of seven modifiers. The first four are unsurprising: "familiar" (all too familiar), "old" (by now the pain is clearly "getting old"), "dull," "aching" (from the verb meaning "to whine, complain"). All of these might well be used by Ivan Ilich to characterize pain that is continual and tiresome if not excruciating, just the sort of pain to elicit a self-pitying whine. The last three modifiers, "insistent," "quiet," "serious," however, do not evoke the same spirit of complaint. They seem rather to suggest that there is some point to the pain, as though it were quietly, seriously, persistently trying to attract Ivan Ilich's attention. The connotation would seem to be that while pain is pain, there is also another dimension beyond, or perhaps within, the pain.
  9. The phrase "with all the strength of his soul" is, of course, a common enough expression, but like many other such cliches in the text this one also bears a suggestive significance. In this case it suggests that, after all, Ivan Ilich does still have a soul and that soul hates the insincere affection of Praskovya Fyodorovna and the idea of calling in the doctor yet again, perhaps because it senses that medical care is irrelevant to the real, spiritual problem that is besetting Ivan Ilich
  10. The use of the word "proshchaj" here is unusual and suggestive. It is most commonly used when bidding farewell before a long absence or at the bedside of a person on the very verge of death.