“At six years of age Ouspensky was reading on an adult level. Two books made a strong impression on him—Lermontov’s A Hero for Our Time and Turgenev’s A Sportsman’s Notebook. Lermontov’s book is noteworthy since the ideas it expresses—the plasticity of time and questions of predestination, fate and recurrence—are those that would occupy Ouspensky throughout his life. As a young boy Ouspensky disliked school, finding the work dull. At sixteen he discovered Nietzsche, whose idea of eternal recurrence would remain a lifelong interest. He left school the same year. In 1905, at the age of seventeen, his mother died. That year he wrote his only novel (not published until 1915), The Strange Life of Ivan Osokin.”
Strange Life of Ivan Osokin – Ivan-Osokin.pdf. old link didn’t work – updated to add working link
“Strange Life of Ivan Osokin is a 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.” – wiki
This commentary by John Pentland sums up the crucial points and I’d recommend it if you’re considering reading the story. Personally, I loved the book, and the food for thought it offers.
The commentary was first published in Material for Thought (1972) San Francisco: Number 4, and subsequently published as the foreword to the Penguin Metaphysical Library Series edition of Ivan Osokin (1973). It was published with permission of Mrs. Mary Rothenberg.