Category Archives: Leo Tolstoy

On “The Death of Ivan Ilych”: The Master Chef and His Famous Consomme

The Death of Ivan Ilych And Other StoriesThe Death of Ivan Ilych And Other Stories by Leo Tolstoy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What can I say? Tolstoy is the master.

A master Chinese chef once served a consomme at the end of a meal. (This is not a strange thing in China. The Cantonese are the only group of people who eat soups at the start of a meal. People elsewhere in China do the opposite.)

Everyone marveled at how delicious and wonderful the consomme tasted. The inquisitive ones begged the chef for the secret recipe.

“Plain boiled water with some unseasoned leaves of green,” the chef said.

After a full meal of extraordinary flavors, diners palate crave for plain and clean taste.

Tolstoy’s “The Death of Ivan Ilych” is that master chef’s consomme. It is as basic as water, yet as refreshing and life-sustaining as water.

I did not read “The Death of Ivan Ilych,” I re-read it now and then. In one of my not-so-subtle short fiction, titled “A Eulogy for Edwin Bogardus,” I could not help alluding to this book. “A Eulogy for Edwin Bogardus” is one of the short fiction in my collection “Bitter Tea and Braided Hair.” (

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