On Time and Water


by Andri Snær Magnason

March 23, 2021
nonfiction | hc | 329 pgs.
6" x 9" 


“Eco-lit needs more attention, and devotees will be pleased to discover a new addition from the Icelandic author Andri Snaer Magnason, who writes with a Seussian mix of wonder, wit and gravitas. . . . Immensely satisfying.“—New York Times on The Story of the Blue Planet

A few years ago, Andri Snaer Magnason, one of Iceland’s most beloved writers and public intellectuals, was asked by a leading climate scientist why he wasn’t writing about the greatest crisis mankind has faced. Magnason demurred: 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 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 an iceberg 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, and a desperate plea to live in harmony with future generations. Already a massive bestseller in Iceland, and selling in two dozen territories around the world, this is a book unlike anything that has yet been published on the current climate emergency.

Translated from the Icelandic by Lytton Smith


About the Author: Andri Snær Magnason, master storyteller and environmental activist, is one of Iceland’s most celebrated writers. His book LoveStar won a Philip K. Dick Award Special Citation and France’s Le Grand prix de l’Imaginaire, and was an Icelandic Booksellers Award Novel of the Year. His children’s book, The Story of the Blue Planet, was the first children’s book to win the Icelandic Literary Award and was named best foreign children’s book in China. His work has been published or performed in more than thirty languages. 

About the Translator: Lytton Smith is a poet, professor, and translator from the Icelandic. His most recent translations include works by Kristin Ómarsdóttir, Jón Gnarr, Ófeigur Sigurðsson, and Guðbergur Bergsson. His most recent poetry collection, The All-Purpose Magical Tent, was published by Nightboat. Having earned his MFA and PhD from Columbia University, he currently teaches at SUNY Geneseo.


Praise for Andri Snær Magnason:

“Andri Snær Magnason’s perspective on his country’s environment is unique and compelling. . . . The author tries to understand, and tries to make the reader understand, why the climate crisis is not widely perceived as a distinct, transformative event in the manner of, say, the fall of the Berlin Wall or the attacks of September 11th, 2001. The fundamental problem, as this book elucidates, is time. Climate change is a disaster in slow motion, and yet “slow” is a great deal faster than many people seem able to comprehend.”
The Economist

“With poetry and wonder Magnason summons deep emotions about our place on our planet. I was deeply moved and inspired by his words.”
—Darren Aronofsky

On Time and Water is about connections—across generations, cultures, landscapes, and species—showing us how delicate are the networks on which our survival depends, how precariously all natural life is poised on the brink of destruction. Combining memoir, interviews, literature, and science to give words to a catastrophe too enormous to comprehend, this book is a letter of farewell to lost worlds and a passionate appeal to preserve what remains.”
Anuradha Roy, author of All the Lives We Never Lived

“Andri Snær Magnason combines intimate history and collective mythology, personal essay and exploration of memory, geography and environment, to bring the elusive reality of climate change painfully and dangerously close to each of us.”
—Paolo Giordano, author of Heaven and Earth

“Both deeply investigative and intimately personal, it’s an appeal to change that draws as much on the mythological traditions of his homeland as scientific research. A climate book unlike any before it.”
Chicago Review of Books

“Magnason’s empathetic rendering of changes that “surpass most of the language and metaphors we use to navigate our reality” makes an impact. Climate-concerned readers will find much to consider.”
—Publishers Weekly

“I loved this book so much—it is a cerebral tale, well told and unabashedly philosophical. It is dark, funny and grim.”
New York Times on The Casket of Time

“Orwell, Vonnegut, and Douglas Adams are felt on every page, though Magnason is never derivative. His satire and insightful social commentary sweeten the pot and the sheer wackiness of Magnason’s oversized imagination is invigorating.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review) on Lovestar

“Strange and refreshing—a lushly imagined future that reminded me of Vonnegut and Brautigan.”
—Ed Park, author of 
Personal Days on Lovestar

“The love child of Chomsky and Lewis Carroll.”
—Rebecca Solnit on 
The Casket of Time