The Death of Ivan Ilyich is a novella first published in 1886. This famous work is often studied in many literature classrooms--high school and college--and you may find it in your favorite anthology or short story collection!
I first read it when I was taking Prof. M. for a World Literature overview course. Classroom discussions were enlivened by Joyce's "Araby," Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis, Marge Piercy's poetry, Ursula Le Guin's "Those Who Walk Away From Omelas," Oedipus Rex... and more...
It was one of those courses that seemed ever-more memorable as time and space brought more vivid potency to our connections with literature. Some books, poems, stories, or plays come alive with brutal clarity--as we examine the meaning of life and death. In The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Leo Tolstoy addresses some of the meaning of life issues, and the inevitability of death. Here, a man who had counted himself a success reevaluates his life as he approaches his final moments. What does he see? What does he know? Regrets?
In one of the most memorable sections of The Death of Ivan Ilyich, we read: "'Maybe I did not live as I ought to have done,' it suddenly occurred to him. 'But how could that be, when I did everything properly?' he replied, and immediately dismissed from his mind this, the sole solution of all the riddles of life and death, as something quite impossible."