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The Pirate

The Pirate

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By Jón Gnarr
Translated from the Icelandic by Lytton Smith

The second book in a trilogy chronicling the troubled childhood of international sensation Jón Gnarr, The Pirate revisits his teenage years with sincere compassion and great humor: bullied relentlessly, young Jón receives rebellious inner strength through the Sex Pistols and Prince Kropotkin—punk rock and anarchy offer the promise of a better and more exciting life.

Publication Date: January 12, 2016

Paperback: 9781941920206
eBook: 9781941920213


"An Icelandic-punk version of Catcher in the Rye." —Dallas Morning News

"If there were more people like Jón Gnarr the world wouldn't be in such a mess." —Oliver Sacks

The second book in a trilogy chronicling the troubled childhood of international sensation Jón Gnarr, The Pirate revisits his teenage years with sincere compassion and great humor: bullied relentlessly, Jón receives rebellious inner strength through the Sex Pistols and Prince Kropotkin—punk rock and anarchy offer the promise of a better and more exciting life.

Jón Gnarr, the most famous comedic actor in Iceland, founded the Best Party, ran for mayor of Reykjavík as a joke and won, and served as mayor of Reykjavík 2010-2014, in the process becoming an international sensation and symbol of true alternatives to the political process worldwide.


"Anyone who felt like the outcast in school, in indefinable limbo between jock, bookworm, stoner, or class clown, yet still shunned and excluded and on your own planet, will identify with The Pirate. In fact, it will make you relive those days in a way that brings all of those insecurities and triumphs vividly back to life." Doug Stanhope

"The text encapsulates the feelings of loneliness and being misunderstood and bullied all while searching for self-identity that are all too common in the teenage experience. At times, the familiar emotions and questions posed by Gnarr’s younger self can be anxiety-inducing for the reader." Hannah Wise, Dallas Morning News

"Jon Gnarr may be best known as the comedian who became mayor of Reykjavik, but he also impresses with his writing. The Pirate recounts his teen years and punk rock's influence on his life." David Gutkowski, Largehearted Boy

"Here we are a delivered a furious mind racing to process and understand in order to solve the riddle of his perpetual position as outsider. . . . Those who found punk as a refuge in their troubled teens and twenties will delight in thinking through our experiences while reading. . . . Give it a read and remember your first all-age hardcore matinee show." Brandon Gray Miller, Professor, SMU

“From Iceland comes former mayor of Reykjavik’s laugh-out-loud/fight-back-tears memoir of a fractured adolescence, The Pirate.….a must-read. Think Holden Caulfield Meets Borat.” —Tim Barry, The Arts Fuse

"In my opinion this is one of the most remarkable books to have come out in the last year...Teenagers should read this book, without question...I thought it was simply wonderful." Kolbrún Bergthórsdóttir, Kiljan (Icelandic National TV)

"Gnarr the writer does an incredible job of telling the story from a kid's perspective, showing Jón's naivete and idealism, along with poor judgement, tortured kid-logic and blasé cynicism and emotional detachment. . . . The Pirate is brilliant, heartbreaking and so true to a kid's brain it's painful sometimes, great for adult readers of adult or YA fiction." Marie Cloutier, Boston Bibliophile

"The language is reminiscent even of Thorbergur Thordarson, with his clarity and simplicity. I also find the history of punk in this book very interesting." Sigurdur Valgeirsson, Icelandic National TV

"He’s a bit of a genius, that Jón." Egill Helgason, Kiljan (Icelandic National TV)

"A heartfelt and searing tale of bullying, rebellion and the search for a place to belong in the world. A story that genuinely touches the reader." Fridrika Benonysdottir, Frettabladid

"...[The Pirate] plainly shows the destructive effects of prejudice and how a lack of realistic options and willingness to understand the boy is soul-destroying and dangerous...The strength of The Pirate, the second volume of Jon’s memoirs, is its sincerity: the boy’s point of view and the narration shaped by his inner voice." —Frida Bjork Ingvarsdottir, Vidsja (National Broadcasting Station)


On The Indian:

"A dark memoir full of black humor that details the author’s painful experiences as a child unable to fit in due to struggling with learning and emotional disorders, [The Indian] illuminates the struggles that come from being considered broken. Written with cleverly shifting points of view, this haunting narrative invites readers to consider the trauma of an outcast child." World Literature Today

"[The Pirate] is a highly readable book, enormously powerful and particularly heartfelt. …A book not soon forgotten." Kolbrún Bergthórsdóttir, Morgunblaðið

"By turns funny and despairing (Gnarr had ADHD and severe dyslexia as a child), as well as providing a glimpse into Icelandic culture beyond Bjo¨rk, The Indian is entertaining and enlightening." Cary Darling, Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Critic’s Pick)

"Hypnotic and heartbreaking...Let 'normal' people have their 'normal' heroes. The rest of us have Jón Gnarr, and the world’s a better place for it." Michael Schaub, NPR

"Gnarr’s finest accomplishment in [The Indian], surpassing others in the genre, is the absolute immediacy of the childhood experience…Gnarr returns those emotions—all the emotions of childhood—to their context, adding the suffering of learning them, finding new restrictions, fearing ones you don’t know, and we relate to them once again." P.T. Smith, Three Percent


I was not on the way to heaven; that much I knew. Hell was my destination, calling on the Department of Psychiatry, unskilled labor, drugs, and Litla-Hraun, the prison. I had long been ready to take my first steps on the criminal path. That was the way to judgement.

Everyone knew nothing would come out of me. I was a defective copy. My crime was to be different and to behave differently than required. Still, I wasn’t doing anything to anyone. I didn’t harm anyone, but I was still a threat. I was the punk song on the radio station that otherwise played elevator music for department stores. When people spoke, it was like they didn’t hear the words being said but instead they went on like a pleasantly babbling stream.

Was my curse to hear every word? From the outside, from the other point of view, I was like a zombie, but inside I felt like the carnival in Rio de Janeiro was taking place. My brain was like a nuclear power plant producing endless ideas and words. The words were three-dimensional and under each word were sentences, new meanings, possibilities. The words swapped, merged, formed new sentences. The words played on the emotions like a harp.

Each word had its own sentiment. Nothing was immutable, everything renewed and transformed continuously. But others didn’t see me with my eyes. They couldn’t. They just saw me with their eyes. They lived in prison, but I was outside. I was free, but they were closed off. It was impossible for me to step into prison and leave myself locked inside. And they could not understand that I didn’t want to step into prison because they saw the prison not as a prison but as a home. They were blind because they did not see.


Biographical Note

Jón Gnarr was born in 1967 in Reykjavík. He formed the Best Party in 2009 and became the mayor of Reykjavík in 2010. His acting work includes the movies The Icelandic Dream and A Man Like Me and the television series The Night Shift, which aired on BBC4. As a child, Gnarr was diagnosed with severe mental retardation due to dyslexia, learning difficulties, and ADHD. He nevertheless overcame his hardships and went on to become one of Iceland’s most well-known actors and comedians, and published the first two volumes in his fictionalized autobiography in 2006, The Indian, and 2009, The Pirate (the third volume, The Outlaw will be published in Iceland in fall 2015–Deep Vellum will publish the trilogy in full in 2015-2016).In late 2009 Gnarr formed the joke Best Party with a number of friends with no background in politics. The Best Party, which was a satirical political party that parodied Icelandic politics and aimed to make the life of the citizens more fun, managed a plurality win in the 2010 municipal elections in Reykjavik, and Gnarr became Major of Reykjavik (there’s a great documentary on Gnarr’s campaign, which introduces you to Gnarr’s unique and inspiring personality, called Gnarr). His term as mayor ended in June 2014 and he plans to use his post-mayor years to continue writing and speaking on issues that are most important to him: freedom of speech, human rights, protecting the environment, and achieving international peace. Now that his term as mayor is complete, he has moved to Texas to focus on writing, speaking on issues he holds most dear (world peace, sexual and gender equality, freedoms for writers and journalists), and performing stand-up comedy again