Monday, August 21, 2017

The Indian

A Memoir/Novel by Jón Gnarr

First published 2006
Translated version published by Deep Vellum Publishing, Dallas, Texas

I thought about these names—not once, not twice, not even three times. I thought about them no more. They thought themselves into me, autocratic, ceaseless, an automatic mantra wiping everything else away, clean gone from my consciousness.

~ Þórbergur Þórðarson 

This is the first book in a trilogy by the noted Icelandic comic actor and politician. The opening quote is from another noted Icelandic author, an author who had similar childhood experiences as Jón Gnarr.  In The Indian, Gnarr describes his younger days (in the early 70s), when he was diagnosed with numerous conditions that today would be labelled ADD and dyslexia. He was simply termed “maladaptio” and was shunted from one specialist to another in an effort to get some of his wild and dangerous behaviors under control. This book is a fascinating document. Gnarr’s memories are supplemented by actual psychological reports from his childhood. Gnarr’s ADD and numerous other problems led to his being singled out for bullying which certainly didn’t help matters any.

The writing is simple and direct, often reminding me of Þórðarson, and sometimes even the sagas when it shifts into the present tense as Gnarr describes pivotal scenes. The book ends when the author is in middle school, trying to “fit in”. Anyone interested in troubled children (or in child-rearing practices in 1970s Iceland) should enjoy this book.

By Professor Batty



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