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On Time and Water

On Time and Water

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Andri Snaer Magnason
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Finalist for the 2021 Nordic Council Literature Prize

Asked by a leading climate scientist why he wasn’t writing about the greatest crisis mankind has faced, Andri Snær Magnason, one of Iceland’s most beloved writers and public intellectuals, protested: he wasn’t a specialist, he said. It wasn’t his field. But the scientist persisted: “If you cannot understand our scientific findings and present them in an emotional, psychological, poetic or mythological context,” he told him, “then no one will really understand the issue, and the world will end.”

Based on interviews and advice from leading glacial, ocean, climate, and geographical scientists, and interwoven with personal, historical, and mythological stories, Magnason’s resulting response is a rich and compelling work of narrative nonfiction that illustrates the reality of climate change and offers hope in the face of an uncertain future. Moving from reflections on how one writes an obituary for a glacier to exhortation for a heightened understanding of human time and our obligations to one another, throughout history and across the globe, On Time and Water is both deeply personal and globally minded: a travel story, a world history, a desperate plea to live in harmony with future generations—and is unlike anything that has yet been published on the current climate emergency.