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For the past two decades, Andri Snær Magnason has been on a quest for language that truly gets at the heart of the climate crisis—the images, mythology, and syntax to crystallize the often-abstracted but very real environmental disasters increasingly taking place around us. The 45-year-old Icelandic writer’s latest book, The Casket of Time, offers an allegorical tale of global calamity and apathy, captured through specific, deeply considered language he has been pursuing—and using—over the past 20-plus years.

Magnason’s diverse body of work includes Dreamland, a nonfiction account of Iceland’s climate policies; a corresponding documentary co-directed by Magnason of the same name; and The Story of the Blue Planet, a whimsical tale of gluttony and sacrifice that won the Icelandic Literary Prize (a first for a children’s book) and was adapted into a play. A rigorous thinker and empathizer in all aspects of his work, Magnason examines beauty and ugliness as symbiotic instead of antagonistic. His poetry book Bonus is characteristic of this dynamic. Stemming from a critique of the Icelandic supermarket Bónus, the book envisions the world, not so unrealistically, as commercialized bulk. Ironically, or maybe not, the Bónus supermarket itself published Bonus, closing off the writer’s satire full circle.

On this episode of Time Sensitive, Magnason discusses with Andrew Zuckerman the mutual dependency of spiritual and rational thinking, details two otherworldly, life-altering meetings with the Dalai Lama, and more.

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