Kira Yarmysh's new novel "Harassment" (M.: Izdatelstvo AST. CORPUS. 2022) marks the appearance in modern Russian literature of not just a bright, but a significant writer.
After her first novel, Kira Yarmysh instantly passed both the debut stage and her perception as a press secretary of Alexei Navalny ( recognized as a foreign agent, an extremist and convicted in the Russian Federation - ed. ) as the main characteristic. Her second novel needs no extra-literary characteristics - it's just a book that has taken a place in modern prose that no one else could take. And this place is not connected with the fashionable theme designated by the author, or, in any case, is not connected with it as closely as one might imagine from the title.
The real theme of the novel Harassment is Moscow in the 1920s. Until now, no one has been able to write about this city in its non-Soviet, not perestroika, in general, not in the past, but in the present state so from the inside, to look at the world through the eyes of its so iconic representative. Of course, not all Moscow girls “about thirty” get into such radical situations as harassment in its most severe form, and even more so, not all of them find a way out of such a situation as radical as Inga Solovieva, the main character of the book. But such, as Inga's, perception of oneself, others, life in general - what is called a worldview - is inherent in the majority of residents of the Moscow metropolis in a diluted form to varying degrees. It is not very pleasant and even scary to realize this, but the book testifies to this very convincingly.
Kira Yarmysh immediately indicates - unobtrusively, as if in passing, and this is also an important sign of the author's manner - that Inga lives in a world in which nothing exists, that's just nothing at all that goes beyond her daily needs, very, by the way, varied. Elections, rallies, political assassinations, poverty, corruption, volunteering in hospices and animal shelters - none of this ever appears on the pages of the novel. It was only once said about Inga that she reads the news only if she comes across it on social networks - that's all. Nothing is said at all about what kind of news this is, because it is obvious: it does not have the slightest effect on Ingin's life. And not only on Inga - what is happening outside the circle of personal interests is not even briefly mentioned in any conversation between colleagues in the office of a large international company, where Inga works as a PR person. Meanwhile, the duration of the novel is indicated with an accuracy of not even a year, but up to a month. It is only indicated not by events that shocked the general public or at least aroused its curiosity, but by actual goods and services, signs of a lifestyle that are characteristic of this particular year and month.
This absolute separation of Inga's - and not only her - world from big life is not immediately felt. But when you realize this, you become uneasy, because at the same time you realize the absolute typicality of such an attitude to life in that environment - millionth - in which Inga lives, a young, educated, beautiful Moscow woman with a sharp mind. This vacuum is the first sign brilliantly implanted in the text that something is wrong with this woman.
In general, Inga is an interesting character. In the truest sense of the word: the six hundred page novel consists of a detailed, meticulous description of her thoughts and feelings. This would be impossible to do if the heroine were mentally and emotionally primitive.
Ingin's inner world is not only not primitive - it is subtle, deep, contradictory, diverse and burningly interesting.
Here she reflects on her long-dead father, a famous artist: “Accidentally stumbling upon his pipe, forgotten on the shelf behind the clock, or a drawing made in the margins of a book, Inga felt awe, as if she had found another missing piece of a cipher that would sooner or later be added wholly and lead her to the hidden treasure."
Here is about her mother, a former TV presenter: “Sometimes she did not understand how to relate to her. That is, of course, it was her mother and she loved her, but this feeling was smooth, like a cobblestone lying at the bottom. And on the surface floated many other feelings with sharp edges, which now and then scratched Inga. Mother looked exactly as always: a snow-white tousled haircut (it might have looked ridiculous on other women, but mother walked flawlessly), a brick-colored linen shirt, silver rings on her fingers and a face like a beautiful empty bowl - to admire her from the side and not drink a drop".
Here she is flipping through the social media feed: “Thoughtlessly flipping through the posts calmed her down. If there are still people in the world who share their worries, then everything is in order with the world and she herself, Inga, will also be in order.
And now, in the life of this girl, whatever, but definitely not primitive, her boss Ilya enters in an unexpected capacity. At first he is simply interesting to her - mostly as a sexual object, but still. Then he unexpectedly kisses her in the elevator. Then he ignores it so defiantly that, guessing the manipulative nature of his tactics, Inga still succumbs to it. Then a romance begins in which sex plays almost no role for her.
“She still wanted Ilya to be around. Inga herself did not miss him, but she needed him as a confirmation of her exclusivity among her colleagues, even if they would not have guessed about it. In the end, here and now they were the closest people to each other, despite everything that happened, and perhaps because of it. Their mutual attraction, their sex, repulsive and exciting at the same time, their passionate hatred, her impulsiveness and his prudence formed together a tangle of emotions, which was impossible to unravel. Not some vulgar love, but an inconceivably complex, multidimensional feeling”.
Ilya in these relations shows his nature more than fully - as a ball of vanity, hypocrisy, cruelty of complexes and perversions. And at the same time, he is so entangled in this tangle of his personality, so in need of love and help to get out of it, that, with all the consciousness of the danger emanating from such a person, causes sincere pity.
As expected, Inge soon gets tired of him, and she begins to be weary of them.
“Of course, the fact that Ilya was her boss could complicate their relationship if this became known or if they broke up. But, on the other hand, there was a peculiar attraction in this complexity. Inge liked strong bossy men and liked to break the rules. The annoying problem, however, was that she didn't like Ilya. She returned to him in her mind again and again, almost wanting to find something special that would make her fascinated by him, but she did not find it. Neither his formal superiority, nor the biceps repeatedly mentioned by Maxim, nor the alluring spirit of rebellion that Inge would have provided for their romance, could outweigh his mediocrity.
As soon as she finally decides to break off these relations, the whole nature of the offended nonentity with his deceived trust is revealed completely. Ilya turns Ingin's office life into hell and promises that this is not all he is capable of. When, indignant, she betrays the whole story to the public, and her post becomes viral on social networks, and this forces the company's management to institute an investigation, temporarily removing Ilya from his post, he shows such virtuoso hypocrisy, combined with ruthlessness, which Inga did not expect from him . Just as she didn’t expect what would cause in her colleagues not sympathy, but indignation: why did she complicate their well-established office life with her war with her boss and the related proceedings, calls to the commission and other troubles?
Even the mother does not support Inga, explaining this simply and very clearly: “If you think that the bosses did not pester me, then you are very naive. And you know what? I never had to complain to anyone. There were different situations. But if I said no, it was no. And if I was silent, then later I met the consequences without pity for myself.
These words irritate Inga mainly because she understands their justice, even if she does not want to admit it to herself. But what should she do? The efforts made by Ilya are not in vain: he is reinstated at work, she is required to confess to slander, she is broken, her life is unbearable, she is abandoned by the person she is in love with, and the scoundrel Ilya stops her any attempt to escape from this situation.
“Since they broke up, he began to take up even more space, growing through the fabric of her everyday life, like a weed, braiding her in the most unexpected places. What was worth it was that he, it turns out, was following her with Anton. Ilya will follow her wherever she goes. Her work is here, her work is elsewhere, her personal life - he will be right there everywhere, with his ugly screenshots. Looming like a menacing shadow. There was no end to it, it poisoned everything with itself. She sat motionless, with a fixed gaze, but she felt everything inside her begin to move, as if tectonic plates were moving somewhere at an unimaginable depth. Although not a single muscle twitched in her face, she seemed to be shaken to the core. Thoughts flared up like lightning, and immediately went out, over and over again more daring, more forbidden, which is scary to think about, but Inga was not afraid of them and did not rush herself. She waited for her new world to finally take shape, to solidify, and the main thought that she felt in herself that night at the camp site, but was afraid to name, would clearly appear. And the thought came. Ilya must be killed, thought Inga.
All the virtuoso detail with which Kira Yarmysh dissected the thoughts and feelings of her heroine throughout the book now increases many times over. How is this woman preparing to kill? What does she say to herself in his justification and justification?
“The new reality in which Inga found herself required two things. First, it was necessary to figure out what she was doing to Inga. You can't be an ordinary woman planning someone's death. You automatically turn into another creature, but will Inga pull such a transformation? This was well worth thinking about. So, if she really decided to kill Ilya, how would she feel about herself? Inga managed to think only the first part of the question, as her heart sank with horror, but in the next second she felt delight, even ecstasy. You probably feel that way when you jump with a parachute. It would be a victory - over Ilya, of course, too, but most importantly, over himself. Inga would be exceptional. Incomparable to ordinary people. She could look down on everyone from now on and know that she is different, different from them, that she has a secret that you can’t share with a friend, that you won’t blab about when drunk, a real secret that changes the world. And although this made the blood freeze, much more Inga felt intoxicating pride in herself.
However, one should not think that something a la Raskolnikov takes possession of her.
“No, she did not want to kill for the sake of killing or a higher idea. Experiments in the spirit of Dostoevsky did not fascinate her at all. However, free-thinking, which she did not even suspect in herself, was such a striking discovery that Inga for some time lost the ability to think about something else and only admiringly contemplated this new side of herself.
The reader, meanwhile, gets the opportunity to formulate for himself another discovery, to which, however, he went throughout the book: this woman, equally typical of Moscow society, and outstanding, is not immoral, as one might think. She is immoral. That is, it is outside the field that morality occupies, it doesn’t even matter if it has a plus sign or a minus sign. Just outside. Morality as a phenomenon of life, and even more so as a phenomenon of a higher order, does not exist for it. And in planning an assassination, therefore, it proceeds from only two factors: how to prepare for its implementation and how to prepare yourself for it. Both directions of planning are successful. Therefore, the horror that covers in the finale has no analogues with any modern text written in Russian. And it certainly goes far beyond the fashionable theme of harassment. This horror of the infinity of human nature can only be evoked by the means of great art. And Kira Yarmysh, who wrote about a small Moscow office man, used these funds to the fullest.