The Indian

the indian
Author: 
Translator: 
Place: 
Dallas, Texas
Year: 
2015

Cowritten by Hrefna Lind Heimisdóttir. 

About the book

The Indian is a bittersweet literary memoir by the world-famous Icelandic comedian and former mayor of Reykjavík, Jón Gnarr. Gnarr visits his tortured childhood and describes the experience of growing up with learning and emotional disorders in a time before either were understood or treated outside of psych wards. Bullied relentlessly, the young Gnarr lashes out at the world, unable to fit in, an outcast.

The Indian is Gnarr's literary debut and the first book in a trilogy exploring Gnarr's childhood and adolescence that made him into the man the world knows today.

From the book

My arrival was a total shock for my family. My mom was fortyfive years old when she had me. Dad was fifty.
   They knew they were too old to have a baby. Such a thing was out of the ordinary back then. Mom felt ashamed. She didn't try to hide her belly but she wasn't exactly waving a flag, either. It wasn't planned. I was on my way thanks to the carelessness of a feverish May moment at Hotel Flokalundur at Barðaströnd. I was christened Jón Gunnar. Jón in honor of Grandfather, Gunnar in honor of Aunt Gunna.
   The due date was New Year's Day. Many people assumed that I'd be the first baby born that year, that there would be a picture of Mom and me in the paper. Mom flatly discounted the possibility. She didn't want any unncessasary attention. She's always kept to herself.
   The doctors told her that, because of how old she was, it was very likely that I'd be a retard. She was advised to have an amniocentesis to check for chromosomal defects. It was a fairly risky procedure; there was a risk of termination. Mom didn't want one. She didn't trust doctors; instead, she took the hand she'd been dealt without complaining or making a fuss. She'd learned from bitter experience to resign herself to her fate; she'd learned to accept the consequences of her actions. Mom won't tolerate dishonesty or excuses. Also, she'd learned that the easy, comfortable route is seldom the right route. Because she had gotten herself pregnant, she resolved to shoulder the responsibility for it, to nourish the child and raise it, retard or no.
   My birth itself: another blow for the family. I'm obviously not retarded. A relief. But after the birth, another scary fact reveals itself: I'm a redhead. It couldn't have been more of a shock if I'd been born black.

(pp. 3-4)