The Death of Ivan Ilyich, first published in 1886, is a novella by Leo Tolstoy, one of the masterpieces of his late fiction, written shortly after his religious conversion of the late 1870 s.
The novel tells the story of the life and death, at the age of 45, of a high-court judge in 19th-century Russia—a miserable husband, proud father, and upwardly-mobile member of Russia’s professional class, the object of Tolstoy’s unremitting satire. Living what seems to be a good life, his dreadful relationship with his wife notwithstanding, Ivan Ilyich Golovin bangs his side while putting up curtains in a new apartment intended to reflect his family’s superior status in society. Within weeks, he has developed a strange taste in his mouth and a pain that will not go away. Numerous expensive doctors—friends of friends of friends—are visited in their surgeries or called to the judge’s bedside, but beyond muttering about blind gut and floating kidneys, they can neither explain nor treat his condition, and it soon becomes clear that Ivan Ilyich is dying.