Warning: spoilers abound.
Irkadura grips you with an iron stranglehold and smashes you over the head with its brutal surreality. I honestly chose to read it first of Ksenia Anske's works because of the red cover, a shallow fact I'm not at all ashamed to admit. It is a beautiful cover. The content of the story, though, is remarkable, and I guess it's my job for this little while to tell you why that is to me.
The subject matter of Irkadura is grotesque, yet handled perfectly. Irina is an unwanted child, a situation I can relate to a little. She is made to feel like a burden all her life, or maybe that is just a little of myself that I am choosing to see in her. She is used by everyone around her. Her family see her as little more than a convenient chore doer. Her mother's boyfriends have used her for horribly more than that, especially the last one. His name doesn't really matter, and at this moment it escapes me, so I'll call him what Irina does: the boar.
When the book opens, the most terrible thing has already happened. The boar has gotten Irina pregnant. She cannot tell anyone what he is doing to her because she has not spoken since she was two. If you focus on Irina's psychological mutism, you go into this book worried that it will be too awkward a tale with the main character unable to communicate with anyone around her, but Irina is deft at getting her point across when she needs to do so. More importantly, Irina speaks to us the readers, and she makes us love her through every horrible thing she has to endure.
When she stands on the hospital rooftop, ready to step out into the air and end it all, we are there with her. We understand her choice. We also breathe a sigh of utter relief when she doesn't end up dying before giving birth to her child.
She considers an abortion. Think about it; if you were raped daily for over a year and this is how you came to be pregnant, wouldn't you, too, consider aborting the damn beast's offspring? I'm personally against abortion, but also believe it is every woman's right to decide for herself what to do in a circumstance where she cannot or does not want to support a child. Freedom of choice means freedom to choose what we will, and we all must respect that. Still, I wanted to reach through the screen and slap Irina for going through with it… but then she didn't, and I loved her all the more for the way in which she came to WANT her child.
The baby speaks to Irina, which can be seen in one of a few ways. It can be considered a paranormal element to the story. It can be seen as a psychological quirk on Irina's part. It doesn't really matter in the end. What matters are the choices that Irina makes, and how sometimes no matter what we choose to do, sometimes the world will just royally fuck us over anyway.
Irina meets and falls in love with an actor named Pavlik, or Pavel. Pavlik is gay, but his lover is killed by a sniper in the midst of political turmoil. In this same attack, Pavlik is severely wounded, and it is Irina that saves his life. She ends up living with the boy and his parents, who begrudgingly take her in. Pavlik's mother is cold at first, but eventually she and her husband accept Irina. They welcome this mute stranger into their family. They discover Irina's pregnancy, and Pavlik takes the blame, trying to protect his friend and protect the secret of his homosexuality. It is sad that he would feel the need to do such a thing, but that is what many feel the need to do, whether back in the 90's when this book takes place, or even in some places today.
Irina hates hiding the truth. She does it for Pavlik, for a while, but in the end, she reveals the truth to everyone; her own family as well as Pavel's. She tells them that she was raped for over a year by her mother's boyfriend, and that the child in her belly is his. Pavlik marries her anyway, and his family and Irina's are both there for the young couple. They are the odd couple I would like to see in a television series, but of course that will never happen.
The boar, uninvited, finds his way to the wedding party. The boar kills Pavlik. Then, the thing happens that I spent most of the book waiting for; Irina kills the boar, and it is glorious. It is also not the end.
In the end, Irina gives birth to her child, whom she names Pavlik after the father she chose for him. At the very end, things are kind of left up for interpretation, at least until (if she is going to do so) Ksenia writes and releases another book about these fascinating characters. You can choose to believe that Irina finally does leap to her death, this time from a hospital window and with newborn little Pavlik in her arms, or you can choose to believe that the two of them survive.
I choose to believe that they lived, and that their story is far, far from over.
Live excellently. Forgive freely. Admit your faults. Embrace weirdness. Hate no one.