Strange Life of Ivan Osokin
A book cover of the 1st English edition, 1947
|Author||Pytor Demianovich Ouspensky|
|Original title||Странная жизнь Ивана Осокина|
Published in English
|Media type||Print (Hardback)|
|Pages||166 (hardback, first English edition)|
Strange Life of Ivan Osokin (Russian: Странная жизнь Ивана Осокина) is a 1915 novel by P. D. Ouspensky. It follows the unsuccessful struggle of Ivan Osokin to correct his mistakes when given a chance to relive his past. The novel serves as a narrative platform for Nietzsche's theory of eternal recurrence. The conclusion fully anticipates the Fourth Way Philosophy which typified Ouspensky's later works. In particular the final chapter's description of the shocking realization of the mechanical nature of existence, its consequences, and the possibility/responsibility of working in an esoteric school.
Explanation of the novel's title
The title derives the experience of Ivan Osokin living and then reliving his life again in exactly the same way but with prior knowledge of his past mistakes the second time. The title is an ironic commentary on this experience.
When the protagonist realizes that he can recall having lived his life before, he decides to try to change it. But he discovers that because human choices tend to be mechanical, changing the outcome of one's actions is extremely difficult. He realizes that without help breaking his mechanical behavior, he may be doomed to repeat the same mistakes forever.
- Ivan Osokin, the main character of the novel
- The Magician, a minor but important character who makes appearances at the beginning and end of the novel, a possible reference to Ouspensky's teacher George Gurdjieff
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Literary significance and reception
Harold Ramis, who directed Groundhog Day, found the meaning of Strange Life of Ivan Osokin similar to the existential dilemma of Groundhog Day. Both works imply that a sober acceptance of personal accountability is necessary in order to effect an increase in the degree of freedom of the individual. Ramis' opinion is printed in the Lindisfarne Books' 2004 edition of Strange Life of Ivan Osokin.
- 1915, First Edition, Russia, publisher, Pub date ?? ??? 1915
- 1947, Limited Edition (356 copies), UK, Stourton Press, OCLC 504417679, Pub date ?? Oct 1947
- 1947, First Trade Edition, US, Holmes ISBN 0-571-09587-9, ISBN 978-0-571-09587-2, OCLC 2223435, Pub date ?? ??? 1947, Hardback
- 1948, First Edition, UK, Faber & Faber, ISBN 0-571-09587-9, Pub date ?? ??? 1948, Hardback
- 1947, Lindisfarne Books, US, ISBN 1-58420-005-7 Paperback
- Strange Life of Ivan Osokin at Gurdjieff International Review.
- Synopsis Time online, November 17, 1947
- Strange Life of Ivan Osokin Excerpts at Google Books
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