The Pirate


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: 978-1-941920-2-06
Ebook: 978-1-941920-2-13



In The Pirate Gnarr talks freely of his troubles and traumas in the Icelandic educational system, describing the cruel bullying he suffered in school for being an outsider, his initiations as a punk rock kid, studying the philosophy of anarchism, ups and downs on the job market, and his debut as a punk rock singer. Even though the narrative is full of humor, Gnarr’s journey through his troubled teenaged years is both sincere and heartbreaking as the author’s journey through the Icelandic educational system was painful and full of conflict—both mentally and physically.


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Paperback, eBook


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.


The Pirate, the second installment of Jón Gnarr’s childhood memoir trilogy, is essentially an Icelandic-punk version of Catcher in the Rye. Rather than Holden Caulfield wandering the streets of New York looking for someone who is not a phony, Gnarr narrates in pseudo-stream-of-consciousness style through his never-ending search for real punks in Iceland.” — Hannah Wise, The 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

“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.”


“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

“Anyone who felt like the outcast in school, in indefinable limbo between jock, bookwork, stoner, or class clown, yet still shunned and excluded and on your own planet will identify with this book. 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 book 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 Jón’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 Service

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 on The Indian

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

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

“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, on The Indian

“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

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