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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, a beer can, or a pile of other books, you’ve probably been hearing a lot about this guy Ivan Ilyich and his kicking of the bucket. That’s due to the fact that this weekend, the University of Illinois, Champaign Public Library and Urbana Free Library are launching a “Big Read,” putting the community’s collective nose in the pages of Leo Tolstoy’s classic The Death of Ivan Ilyich.

The official kick-off party on Sunday features an appearance by Vladimir Tolstoy, great-great grandson of the author, along with University of Illinois Chancellor Richard Herman, and mayors from Champaign and Urbana, Gerald Schweighart and Laurel Prussing, respectively. The “Big Read” launch, at Alice Campbell Alumni Center, will be followed up with a month-long parade of activities, including a film festival at The Virginia Theatre appropriately dubbed Death and the Meaning of Life Film Festival on April 9.

Other events scheduled include “The How and Why of Dying” at the Medical Sciences Building Auditorium on April 23 and the talk, “Gentlemen Ivan Ilyich Is Dead and You Will Be Too: Can We Ever Again Live Well and Pleasantly After Reading Tolstoy?” at Champaign Public Library on April 3.

Before the group gets ahead, and you find yourself latching on to the Cliffs Notes, grab a copy of The Death of Ivan Ilyich and get cracking.

Your friends will find you smart and cunning.