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The Death of Ivan Ilych

Leo Tolstoy
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Submitted by: Gary Tabas, MD; David Servan-Schreibner, MD; Shadyside Hospital; Pittsburgh PA 15232


Copyright ©2004 by the American College of Physicians


Ann Intern Med. 1998;128(11):954. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-128-11-199806010-00018
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In the depth of his heart he knew he was dying, but not only was he not accustomed to the thought, he simply did not and could not grasp it. The syllogism he had learnt from Kezewetter's Logic: “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, but he was not Caius, not an abstract man, but a creature quite, quite separate from all others. He had 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. 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? Caius really was mortal, and it was right for him to die; but for me, little Vanya, Ivan Illych 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.

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