Imagine for a minute that you’re a successful author (or if you are a successful author, just follow along for now). An artist comes to you and asks if you’d be willing to submit a piece of work that won’t be read until you, and nearly every person alive today is dead. That’s just part of what the Future Library hopes to do. Artist Katie Paterson has started a century-long art piece – Future Library – in Oslo, Norway. One author will be picked each year for the next 100 years to have a piece of their work stored – unpublished – in a Norwegian library until 2114 when everything will start to get a bit crazy.
To start, 1,000 trees have been planted in a small town just outside of Oslo. These trees will be tended by the Future Library Trust, and will grow for the next 100 years. In 2114, the trees will be cut down and used to print the 100 previously unread manuscripts for future readers to enjoy.
The manuscripts will be held in trust in a specially designed room in the New Deichmanske Public Library opening in 2018 in Bjørvika, Oslo. Intended to be a space of contemplation, this room – designed by the artist – will be lined with wood from the forest. The authors’ names and titles of their works will be on display, but none of the manuscripts will be available for reading – until their publication in one century’s time. The library room design is in collaboration with Lund Hagem Architects and Atelier Oslo.
A printing press will be included in the design of the library to ensure that the manuscripts can be duplicated in 100 years.
This project is making a few basic assumptions – Mankind will still be around in 100 years, and we’ll still be able to read. Both of those assumptions could prove to be questionable, only time will tell. If Google manages to cure death, maybe a few of us will even be around to read some of these works when they’re finally published!
The first author chosen for this project is award-winning Canadian author, Margaret Atwood, author of Oryx and Crake, the first book of the MaddAddam trilogy. In an interview with the Guardian, she seemed very excited about the whole thing:
“It is the kind of thing you either immediately say yes or no to. You don’t think about it for very long,” said Atwood, speaking from Copenhagen. “I think it goes right back to that phase of our childhood when we used to bury little things in the backyard, hoping that someone would dig them up, long in the future, and say, ‘How interesting, this rusty old piece of tin, this little sack of marbles is. I wonder who put it there?'”
The award-winning author said she was unbothered by the fact that, during her lifetime at least, no one but her will ever read the story she has already started writing. “What a pleasure,” she said. “You don’t have to be around for the part when if it’s a good review the publisher takes credit for it and if it’s a bad review it’s all your fault. And why would I believe them anyway?”
Author of novels including The Handmaid’s Tale and The Blind Assassin, Atwood said “when you write any book you do not know who’s going to read it, and you do not know when they’re going to read it. You don’t know who they will be, you don’t know their age, or gender, or nationality, or anything else about them. So books, anyway, really are like the message in the bottle.”
That makes at least two people that are very excited about this project – Margaret Atwood, and artist Katie Paterson. Fans of Ms. Atwood’s work are probably much less excited, knowing that there is a completed manuscript out there that they’ll likely never be able to read. For her part, she has promised never to tell:
“Wild horses would not drag it out of me. It’s part of the contract you can’t tell anybody what you’re writing. I’m finding it very delicious, because I get to say to people like you [the Guardian], I’m not telling,” said the Canadian writer. “But I will say that I’ve bought some special archival paper, which will not decay in its sealed box over 100 years.”
Delicious indeed. Tell your grand kids to look for more information about the books contained in the Future Library on MOARGeek from our future writers. In the more immediate future, check out more about the Future Library at the source links below.