Saving time, wasting time, no time to lose. American English is full of collocated terms about time, emphasizing a value of events happening “on time” and not appreciating things happening “in time.” Perhaps we share this trait with Icelanders.
Andri Snær Magnason describes his book, The Casket of Time (trans. by Björg Arnadóttir and Andrew Cauthery), as a Sci-Fi/Fairytale hybrid. He uses social realism to critique our response to the world’s problems.
In The Casket of Time, the world is in economic crisis, and no one wants to fix it. Everyone seeks refuge inside their individual TimeBox®, which halts time for those who enter. The box opens early for many young people, who wake alone in a world over-grown by nature and without resolution of the crisis.
A mysterious woman gathers the children and tells them of the ancient kingdom of Pangea, where a king does all he can to protect his daughter from gloomy days and growing older by putting her in a silken casket that time cannot penetrate. The princess learns that stopping time offers temporary rewards, but has long-term consequences. In fact, it is our modern crew of young people who face the crisis.
Magnason explains in a Reading Realm interview that, “[Icelandic] culture does not seem to relate to our intimate time.” He says that life is not best when we avoid difficulty and hopes his book makes readers think differently about the concept of time.
At one point, our princess romanticizes marrying her friend then becoming old, losing teeth and scaring her grandchildren with toothless grins.
“‘They got so wrinkled that their foreheads stuck together when they kissed!’ Anori laughed even more. ‘This was a lovely story,’ he said.” (194)
This scene reminds the reader that gray days help us to understand sunny ones while also injecting humor into an otherwise serious tale.
An origin story told with flashforwards, The Casket of Time has a complexity that will reward young readers. People who love fairytales will enjoy the references in this middle-grade book, however some tropes lend themselves to stereotyping (e.g., scheming dwarfs). Additionally, Magnason does not shy away from the type of gore in traditional fairytales.
Andri Snær Magnason is an award-winning Icelandic writer. His honors include The Icelandic Literary Prize for Children and Young People’s Books and The Icelandic Bookseller’s prize for best teenage book of the year, and nominations for the Nordic Council Children and Young People’s Literature Prize, The West Nordic Literature Prize and the Reykjavik Children’s Literature Prize. Readers interested in other Icelandic books for young adults should consider the work of Hildur Knútsdóttir and Sif Sigmarsdóttir. -Recommended by Rebecca Ballenger, The University of Arizona
Publisher: Restless Books
PubDate: April 9, 2019
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