Tuesday, November 13, 2007

#73 - The Death Of Ivan Ilyich & Master And Man

After my teacher "assigned" Tolstoy's "Master and Man" as required background reading for my own work, I decided to kill three birds with one story collection (homework, 1001 Books, Around the World in 52 Books). I've left behind The Brothers Karamazov for now and replaced it with the Modern Library edition of two Tolstoy stories: "The Death of Ivan Ilyich" and the aforementioned "Master and Man."

Now I'm going to get this out of the way first, I haven't read a lot of the Russians. It took me months and months, and then years and years, and then four separate tries, to get through Crime and Punishment. I'm glad I did, but for a girl that likes to power through her reading because there's simply so much to read, I find that to be a tad labour-intensive.

However, both stories were quite short, and the entire collection clocks in somewhere around 120 pages, and there's a power to Tolstoy's storytelling, especially in "The Death...", that remains captivating. I mean, there's a reason why he's on the 1001 Books list, and of the two stories, I did enjoy "The Death of Ivan Ilyich" slightly more than "Master and Man."

So, I've read Russia. It was cold. It suffered through its characters. It made me appreciate living in a world with modern medicine and a warm winter coat. But in terms of actual critical opinion, there's nothing that I could possibly say that might remotely be original. So I'll tell a story instead.

Last night when I told my teacher DG that I had read the story, he went on a good, long diatribe about how War and Peace is quite possible the most romantic book ever written. It's the only book that made him weep. That's right, weep. So now, I've essentially been assigned a 1,500 page book by the teacher simply because he thinks I would absolutely enjoy it. And if Virginia Woolf made a case for the Russians, as he said, shouldn't I?

So in starting my thoughts about a reading challenge for next year, it might just be to tackle the "giants" of our canon, but I'm afraid that'll throw me right off my goals and I'll never catch up to Stephen King's 75 books a year, which, for the first time since I've started TRH, I'm actually on track to do. Here's a question: how many of you out there have read War and Peace and what did you think? Is it the most romantic book ever written? Like, ever?

PHOTO IN CONTEXT: Is rightfully missing because I've already given my copy to a friend in my class.

1001 BOOKS SCORE: Sitting at 144. Desperately trying to get to 150 by the end of the year...


Beth said...

Loved War and Peace. The most romantic book I've ever read? Perhaps.

Anonymous said...

Not read it yet but as you mentioned Russian writers, I thought I'd recommend any of Solzhenitsyn's fiction and in particular Cancer Ward which is a very powerful novel.

Gallis said...

Kudos on the book count. I'm almost done one! LOL!