watch chain, respice finem, Tolstoy, Wallace

The mention of a medallion hanging from a watch chain with the inscription respice finem in Tolstoy’s Death of Ivan Ilyich reminded me of a watch with the same inscription in Wallace’s Good Old Neon. (Quotes Below). Perhaps the authors simply hit upon the same trope, but there are also thematic parallels to the stories (the falsity of living and of oneself, the revelation of death) which may indicate that Wallace, in making this reference, was consciously alluding to Tolstoy’s work.


“This falsity around and within him did more than anything else to poison his last days.”~Death of Ivan Ilyich

watch chain quotes. “Another of my stepmother’s treasured antiques was a silver pocket-watch of her maternal grandfather’s with the Latin RESPICE FINEM inscribed on the inside of the case.” (Good Old Neon.)

“Ilych ordered himself clothes at Scharmer’s, the fashionable tailor, hung a medallion inscribed respice finem on his watch-chain” (Death of Ivan Ilyich)

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