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

Chapter 6

Иван Ильич видел, что он умирает, и был в постоянном отчаянии.
Ivan Ilych saw that he was dying, and he was in continual despair.
В глубине души Иван Ильич знал, что он умирает,[1] но он не только не привык к этому, но просто не понимал, никак не мог понять этого.
In the depth of his heart he knew he was dying,[1] but not only was he not accustomed to the thought, he simply did not and could not grasp it.
Тот пример силлогизма, которому он учился в логике Кизеветера:[2] Кай – человек, люди смертны, потому Кай смертен, казался ему во всю его жизнь правильным только по отношению к Каю, но никак не к нему. То был Кай-человек, вообще человек, и это было совершенно справедливо;[3] но он был не Кай и не вообще человек, а он всегда был совсем, совсем особенное от всех других существо; он был Ваня с мама, папа, с Митей и Володей, с игрушками, кучером, с няней, потом с Катенькой, со всеми радостями, горестями, восторгами детства, юности, молодости.[4] Разве для Кая был тот запах кожаного полосками мячика, который так любил Ваня! Разве Кай целовал так руку матери и разве для Кая так шуршал шелк складок платья матери? Разве он бунтовал за пирожки в Правоведении? Разве Кай так был влюблен? Разве Кай так мог вести заседание?
The syllogism he had learnt from Kiesewetter’s Logic:[2] “Caius is a man, men are mortal, therefore Caius is mortal,” had always seemed to him correct as applied to Caius, but certainly not as applied to himself. That Caius — man in the abstract — was mortal, was perfectly correct,[3] but he was not Caius, not an abstract man, but a creature quite, quite separate from all others. He had been little Vanya, with a mamma and a papa, with Mitya and Volodya, with the toys, a coachman and a nurse, afterwards with Katenka and with all the joys, griefs, and delights of childhood, boyhood, and youth.[4] What did Caius know of the smell of that striped leather ball Vanya had been so fond of? Had Caius kissed his mother’s hand like that, and did the silk of her dress rustle so for Caius? Had he rioted like that at school when the pastry was bad? Had Caius been in love like that? Could Caius preside at a session as he did?
И Кай точно смертен, и ему правильно умирать, но мне, Ване, Ивану Ильичу, со всеми моими чувствами, мыслями, – мне это другое дело. И не может быть, чтобы мне следовало умирать. Это было бы слишком ужасно.
“Caius really was mortal, and it was right for him to die; but for me, little Vanya, Ivan Ilych, with all my thoughts and emotions, it’s altogether a different matter. It cannot be that I ought to die. That would be too terrible.”
Так чувствовалось ему.
Such was his feeling.
“Если б и мне умирать, как Каю, то я так бы и знал это, так бы и говорил мне внутренний голос,[5] но ничего подобного не было во мне; и я и все мои друзья – мы понимали, что это совсем не так, как с Каем. А теперь вот что! – говорил он себе. – Не может быть. Не может быть, а есть. Как же это? Как понять это?”
“If I had to die like Caius I would have known it was so. An inner voice would have told me so,[5] but there was nothing of the sort in me and I and all my friends felt that our case was quite different from that of Caius. And now here it is!” he said to himself. “It can’t be. It’s impossible! But here it is. How is this? How is one to understand it?”
И он не мог понять и старался отогнать эту мысль, как ложную, неправильную, болезненную,[6] и вытеснить ее другими, правильными, здоровыми мыслями. Но мысль эта, не только мысль, но как будто действительность, приходила опять и становилась перед ним.
He could not understand it, and tried to drive this false, incorrect, morbid thought away[6] and to replace it by other proper and healthy thoughts. But that thought, and not the thought only but the reality itself, seemed to come and confront him.
И он призывал по очереди на место этой мысли другие мысли, в надежде найти в них опору. Он пытался возвратиться к прежним ходам мысли, которые заслоняли для него прежде мысль о смерти.[7] Но – странное дело – все то, что прежде заслоняло, скрывало, уничтожало сознание смерти,8] теперь уже не могло производить этого действия. Последнее время Иван Ильич большей частью проводил в этих попытках восстановить прежние ходы чувства, заслонявшего смерть, То он говорил себе: “Займусь службой, ведь я жил же ею”.[9] И он шел в суд, отгоняя от себя всякие сомнения; вступал в разговоры с товарищами и садился, по старой привычке рассеянно, задумчивым взглядом окидывая толпу и обеими исхудавшими руками опираясь на ручки дубового кресла, так же, как обыкновенно, перегибаясь к товарищу, подвигая дело, перешептываясь, и потом, вдруг вскидывая глаза и прямо усаживаясь, произносил известные слова и начинал дело. Но вдруг в середине боль в боку, не обращая никакого внимания на период развития дела, начинала свое сосущее дело.[10] Иван Ильич прислушивался, отгонял мысль о ней, но она продолжала свое, и она[11] приходила и становилась прямо перед ним и смотрела на него, и он столбенел, огонь тух в глазах, и он начинал опять спрашивать себя: “Неужели только она правда?” И товарищи и подчиненные с удивлением и огорчением видели, что он, такой блестящий, тонкий судья, путался, делал ошибки. Он встряхивался, старался опомниться и кое-как доводил до конца заседание и возвращался домой с грустным сознанием, что не может по-старому судейское его дело скрыть от него то, что он хотел скрыть; что судейским делом он не может избавиться от нее. И что было хуже всего – это то, что она отвлекала его к себе не затем, чтобы он делал что-нибудь, а только для того, чтобы он смотрел на нес, прямо ей в глаза, смотрел на нее и, ничего не делая, невыразимо мучился.
And to replace that thought he called up a succession of others, hoping to find in them some support. He tried to get back into the former current of thoughts that had once screened the thought of death from him.[7] But strange to say, all that had formerly shut off, hidden, and destroyed his consciousness of death,[8] no longer had that effect. Ivan Ilych now spent most of his time in attempting to re-establish that old current. He would say to himself: “I will take up my duties again — after all I used to live by them.”[9] And banishing all doubts he would go to the law courts, enter into conversation with his colleagues, and sit carelessly as was his wont, scanning the crowd with a thoughtful look and leaning both his emaciated arms on the arms of his oak chair; bending over as usual to a colleague and drawing his papers nearer he would interchange whispers with him, and then suddenly raising his eyes and sitting erect would pronounce certain words and open the proceedings. But suddenly in the midst of those proceedings the pain in his side, regardless of the stage the proceedings had reached, would begin its own gnawing work.[10] Ivan Ilych would turn his attention to it and try to drive the thought of it away, but without success. It[11] would come and stand before him and look at him, and he would be petrified and the light would die out of his eyes, and he would again begin asking himself whether It alone was true. And his colleagues and subordinates would see with surprise and distress that he, the brilliant and subtle judge, was becoming confused and making mistakes. He would shake himself, try to pull himself together, manage somehow to bring the sitting to a close, and return home with the sorrowful consciousness that his judicial labours could not as formerly hide from him what he wanted them to hide, and could not deliver him from It. And what was worst of all was that It drew his attention to itself not in order to make him take some action but only that he should look at It, look it straight in the face: look at it and without doing anything, suffer inexpressibly.
И, спасаясь от этого состояния, Иван Ильич искал утешения, других ширм, и другие ширмы являлись и на короткое время как будто спасали его, но тотчас же опять не столько разрушались, сколько просвечивали, как будто она проникала через все, и ничто не могло заслонить ее.[12]
And to save himself from this condition Ivan Ilych looked for consolations — new screens — and new screens were found and for a while seemed to save him, but then they immediately fell to pieces or rather became transparent, as if *It* penetrated them and nothing could veil It.[12]
Бывало, в это последнее время он войдет в гостиную, убранную им, – в ту гостиную, где он упал, для которой он, – как ему ядовито смешно было думать, – для устройства которой он пожертвовал жизнью, потому что он знал, что болезнь его началась с этого ушиба, – он входил и видел, что на лакированном столе был рубец, прорезанный чем-то. Он искал причину: и находил ее в бронзовом украшении альбома, отогнутом на краю. Он брал альбом, дорогой, им составленный с любовью, подосадовал на неряшливость дочери и ее друзей, – то разорвано, то карточки перевернуты. Он приводил это старательно в порядок, загибал опять украшение.
In these latter days he would go into the drawing-room he had arranged — that drawing-room where he had fallen and for the sake of which (how bitterly ridiculous it seemed) he had sacrificed his life — for he knew that his illness originated with that knock. He would enter and see that something had scratched the polished table. He would look for the cause of this and find that it was the bronze ornamentation of an album, that had got bent. He would take up the expensive album which he had lovingly arranged, and feel vexed with his daughter and her friends for their untidiness — for the album was torn here and there and some of the photographs turned upside down. He would put it carefully in order and bend the ornamentation back into position.
Потом ему приходила мысль весь этот etablissement с альбомами переместить в другой угол, к цветам. Он звал лакея: или дочь, или жена приходили на помощь; они не соглашались, противоречили, он спорил, сердился; но все было хорошо, потому что он не помнил о ней, ее не видно было.
Then it would occur to him to place all those things in another corner of the room, near the plants. He would call the footman, but his daughter or wife would come to help him. They would not agree, and his wife would contradict him, and he would dispute and grow angry. But that was all right, for then he did not think about It. It was invisible.
Но вот жена сказала, когда он сам передвигал: “Позволь, люди сделают, ты опять себе сделаешь вред”, и вдруг она мелькнула через ширмы, он увидал ее.[13] Она мелькнула, он еще надеется, что она скроется, но невольно он прислушался к боку, – там сидит все то же, все так же ноет, и он уже не может забыть, и она явственно глядит на него из-за цветов. К чему все?
But then, when he was moving something himself, his wife would say: “Let the servants do it. You will hurt yourself again.” And suddenly It would flash through the screen and he would see it.[13] It was just a flash, and he hoped it would disappear, but he would involuntarily pay attention to his side. “It sits there as before, gnawing just the same!” And he could no longer forget It, but could distinctly see it looking at him from behind the flowers. “What is it all for?”
“И правда, что здесь, на этой гардине, я, как на штурме, потерял жизнь. Неужели? Как ужасно и как глупо! Это не может быть! Не может быть, но есть”.
“It really is so! I lost my life over that curtain as I might have done when storming a fort. Is that possible? How terrible and how stupid. It can’t be true! It can’t, but it is.”
Он шел в кабинет, ложился и оставался опять один с нею, с глазу на глаз с нею, а делать с нею нечего. Только смотреть на нее и холодеть.[14]
He would go to his study, lie down, and again be alone with It: face to face with It. And nothing could be done with It except to look at it and shudder.[14]

  1. Once again the telling use of the word "soul," linking the beginning of Chapter Six to the end of Chapter Five. It would seem that Ivan Ilich's soul is gradually coming to life just as his body is ineluctably sliding toward death. This may suggest that there is some basic incompatibility between the body and the soul such that the well-being of the body may hide the distress, or even the existence, of the soul and, conversely, that the distress of the body may allow the soul to appear.
  2. J. G. Kiesewetter (1766-1819) wrote a textbook on logic which, translated into Russian, was used in Russian schools.
  3. I have here suggested "right" as the equivalent of "spravedlivo" in contrast with "correct" as the equivalent of "pravil'no" in the preceding sentence in order to try to catch the fine distinction between the two Russian words. "Pravil'no" is usually applied in the context of matters of fact, for example, a statement is true or false; "spravedlivo" derives directly from "pravda," which, while it shares the same basic root with "pravil'no" has the particular senses of "justness, rightness, fairness" as well as the sense of "truth." For example, in Russian to behave "pravil'no" would be to behave "correctly" (in accord with established conventions, the hallmark of Ivan Ilich's life as he has lived it) while to behave in a manner that is "spravedlivo" would be to do the "right" thing (in accord with some more primary principle of moral conduct, perhaps beyond the scope of the conventions defining everyday life). It is thus suggested that the "correct" life may not, if fact, be the "right" life to lead. It may be "wrong" to think of Ivan Ilich's strict conformity with convention as being life at all.
  4. Vanya is a nickname for Ivan, Mitya and Volodya (nicknames for Dmitry and Vladimir) are most likely Ivan Ilich's two brothers; Katenka (nickname for Ekaterina) may be a sister not previously mentioned in the text.
  5. Here the notion of an "inner voice" and, by extension, an inner life, is mentioned in the text for the first time. If we follow the practice of paying close and exact attention to what is said we see that Ivan Ilich here seems to admit not only that there was no inner voice in him, but also no inner life. In fact, this inner voice will enter the text in Chapter Nine and will reappear in each chapter thereafter. At the very end, in Chapter Twelve, Ivan Ilich will himself seem to become that inner voice and inner life, and to view the agonized, dying remains of his body as though from a distance. However, at this point in the text, Chapter Six, the emphatic point seems to be that there is no such inner voice/inner life within Ivan Ilich, even though he is aware that he should have one. We might say that he and we have discovered that he has lost his inner life at the end of Chapter Six and that he regains it again at the end of Chapter Twelve. From this point of view, the novel seems to fall naturally into two main parts, in the first of which he gradually loses his inner, personal life in favor of his external, official life and in the second of which, through suffering and meditation occasioned by his illness, he gradually comes to acknowledge that loss and finally to regain his inner life. Simultaneously, however, the novel has been relating the same series of events from a strictly external viewpoint in which the inner life refers to no more than the kidneys and the intestines. This external story is related in three stages: Ivan Il'ich's former life, up to the onset of his illness(chapters two-four); the development of his illness (chapters five-eight); and his final agony and death (chapters nine-twelve). We might call the first stage "health," the second "illness," and the third "death." The first stage involves a period of years, the second a period of months, the last a period of days and hours. (More detail on this idea is given in the section in the "Introduction" called "The Proportions of the Text.") It seems then that just as Ivan Il'ich has two distinct lives--an inner one and an outer one--so the story of those lives can be seen as being organized in two different ways at the same time: the external life story according to a three-part division of the material (health, illness, death) and the inner life story according to a two-part division. The two-part division shows us an Ivan Ilich who is already inwardly dead at the mid-point of the story, and one who has regained his inner life at the end.
  6. With remarkable consistency the text notes that Ivan Ilich believes that the thought of death is false and incorrect ("nepravil'naja"--not in conformity with convention; see note 3, above) and that it is "diseased." But it may none the less be true, and it may be his disease that is revealing this to him.
  7. The word "zaslon" in Russian is a military term designating a military force of some kind used to cover, protect, or shield the action of another force.
  8. The word "soznanie" ("consciousness") is of marked importance everywhere in Tolstoy's works. It is usually associated with the authentic human center of his characters and is very often contrasted to the mechanical processes of mind ("um") and reason ("razum"). In various religious and philosophical writings produced about the same time as Death of Ivan Ilich Tolstoy devised the term "razumnoe soznanie" ("rational consciousness") to serve as one of the central pillars of his later thought, suggesting that "reason" (the adjective) was an aspect of, but subsidiary to, "consciousness" (the noun). In general, in Tolstoy anything that interferes with the operation of consciousness is suspect to some degree. One might well say that the tension between reason and consciousness is the mainspring of Tolstoy's art.
  9. Here the idea that Ivan Ilich considers his life at the office, his outer life, to be his real life is made explicit. The resolve to get back to this life is implied to be just another screen to protect him from the consciousness (i.e., his inner life, his authentic life) of death. The phrase "ja zhil eju" reminds one of the title of short story (one of the first of Tolstoy's "Stories for the People"
  10. Here is a brilliant example of Tolstoy's use of language in the novel. The preceding sentence has twice used the word "delo": first to mean "the facts of the case before the court as set down on paper" (in the phrase "podvigaja delo") and, second, to mean "the judicial proceedings related to that case" (in the phrase "nachinal delo"). There "delo" is established as meaning the object and activity at the center of Ivan Ilich's life at court ("delo" is the nominal equivalent of the verb "delat'"--"to do, make"; therefore "delo" would be, basically, anything that is done. In the following sentence "delo" appears again, but is now identified as the action of Ivan Ilich's "sucking" pain. The pain of his illness is sucking away his life, but his life, as he has understood it, is also "delo." This leads to the verbal paradox that the pain that Ivan Ilich experiences is the very same thing as the life that he has led, that it is his "life" which is sucking away his "life." The word "sosushchij" (present active participle from "sosat'," "to suck") often has the transferential meaning of "gnaw" or "nag." As so often in the novel, underneath the conventional meaning of a word or phrase lies hidden its literal sense: the false official life of Ivan Ilich is sucking every vestige of his true life out of him.
  11. The italics mark this "it" as something different from the pain which was the referent of the "it" in the preceding clause; this it refers to a different feminine, singular noun: "smert'," ("death").
  12. Chapter Six continues the motif of imminent death introduced in Chapter Five. The chapter has been devoted to Ivan's ineluctable recognition of his death and to his unavailing efforts to hide this recognition from himself by erecting various screens (again the motif of self-enclosure) to protect himself from this recognition. As he will say a few lines below: "I lost my life over that curtain. . . . It can't be true, but it is."
  13. Interestingly, it is just at the moment that Praskovya Fyodorovna tells Ivan Ilich that he will harm himself if he fusses with the albums that his awareness of death returns, as though she were unwittingly explaining to him that his fussy attachment to material ornaments and the artificial tidiness of his "pleasant and decorous" life is what is most harmful to him and, in fact, bringing him face to face with death.
  14. The last sentence of Chapter Six, translated literally, says: "Only to look at it [death] and grow cold." Maude's translation offers "except to look at it and shudder." While this is a good translation, it fails to capture the rhetorical force of the original. In the Russian the interior cause of the action ('growing cold') is used to represent the exterior action itself ('shuddering'). In this way the text manages to express simultaneously the ideas (1) that there are two sorts of "life" involved in what is happening to Ivan Ilich, an inner one and an outer one, and (2) that Ivan Ilich is, from a certain point of view, dead already and growing cold, in the manner of a corpse.