The Indian is the first book in Jón Gnarr’s trilogy of auto-fictions that span his childhood and formative years. The books are narrated by the young Jón and follow his development from a helter-skelter child oddity to a misanthropic teenager searching for a place to call his own.
Jón discovers at a young age that the odds are stacked against him, beginning with the shock that his birth causes his ageing parents and much older siblings, as well as their horror at his inexplicable red hair. Saddled with ADHD and dyslexia at a time when few people had heard of such conditions, his behavioural problems and antisocial antics are seen as evidence of underlying mental problems. The book is labelled as autobiographical fiction but the narration is interspersed with extracts from real medical reports produced by the psych ward where Jón underwent testing as a child to determine whether he was “retarded”—in the parlance of the time.
The tone is humorous, despite some of the bleaker experiences that young Jón is subjected to, but the book also offers a critique of the inhumane educational and medical systems of yesteryear, unwilling to adjust themselves to the needs of those who fall outside the norm.