The Big Read Blog (Archive)

Understanding Death---Leo Tolstoy

Washington, DC

"Leo Tolstoy in Yasnaya Polyana", 1908, by Sergey Mikhaylovich Prokudin-Gorsky. This was the first color photo portrait in Russia.

At the age of 82, Leo Tolstoy famously succumbed to pneumonia on November 20, 1910 in an abandoned train station. His strange death was recently put on film in the adaptation of Jay Parini's novel, The Last Station. Today, in commemoration of his passing, we're turning to celebrated physician Sherwin Nuland, who is an expert on death. His study of death, How We Die, won the National Book Award in 1994. In this bonus track from our Big Read audio guide about The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Dr.  Nuland comments on Tolstoy's uncanny understanding of the stages of death. Actor Alfred Molina, who reads excerpts from the book throughout the audio guide, joins Dr. Nuland in this clip

[audio:http://bigreadblog.arts.gov//audio/IvanIlyichdeathbonus.mp3]

[transcript]

To listen to the entire half-hour Ivan Ilyich audio guide, please go to The Big Read website.

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