Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Cold reading a different culture

Since flashing back to the period before the death of Ivan Ilych, Tolstoy has not yet gone back. However, we have learned what probably started his illness off.

A little stumble while he was caught up in micromanaging the organization of his new home in a new city.

Or municipality.

Along with all of the personal names that are being thrown around (including the variations different characters use for the same person), nineteenth century Russian geography is not entirely clear for me.

However, rather than just going and looking up such things, I've decided to see how the work stands on its own.

Perhaps that's just a danger of having a readily available translation: Anyone, even those unfamiliar with the original language and culture of a work, can read it and misunderstand much. Although an unprepared peek into another culture can shake loose thoughts and ideas. That jolt to perception and conceptions of what is usual can be pretty useful.

Such a jolt may or may not have shaken loose an idea for a short story about wary parents giving their children a certain kind of pet.

At any rate, now 2/3 through "The Death of Ivan Ilych," I've read through his breakdown and am confident that I'll learn why Tolstoy is telling this story by its end. I really doubt that it'll be left open-ended on that front.

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