A hundred years from now, a collection of books will hit shelves that readers today will wish they’d be around to read. The Future Library is an ongoing installation from Scottish artist Katie Paterson in Oslo, Norway. It includes a forest of 1000 trees and a group of authors who will slowly contribute manuscripts that have never been published or read to be held in trust until the trees are cut down.
The Future Library Trust will work with Paterson to select a single author per year over the next century to contribute to the library. Each manuscript will be held in trust in a specially designed room in the Deichmanske municipal library in Oslo. In 2114, the trees in this specially curated and cultivated forest will be harvested and turned into books from these authors. Just this past week, the project signed its first author, Canadian writer Margaret Atwood.
“It is my dream that Margaret Atwood is writing for Future Library. I imagine her words growing through the trees, an unseen energy, activated and materialized, the tree rings becoming chapters in a book,” Paterson said in a press release.
Atwood has written more than 40 novels, children’s books, poetry and nonfiction works. Her writing has been translated into as many languages, and she is most known for addressing the trials and tribulations of mankind through social satire and humor in her stories. Additionally, she has received many literary awards including the Booker Prize and the Arthur C. Clarke Award for excellence in science fiction. She has so far declined to discuss the contents of the manuscript she is working on for this project but has told journalists that she is excited to be part of a project that believes the human race will still exist in a hundred years.
The implications of this kind of project and the ways that it weaves together literary communities, preservation and environmental groups and the art world are awesome. Will the readers of these books even recognize physical books anymore? Will the young trees survive 100 years at the rate the planet is being polluted and affected by global warming? We’d have to live to be older than the world’s oldest humans to see these books printed ourselves, and knowing that fact is half the fun. Knowing Atwood’s taste for satire and global themes, perhaps her book will directly address these issues.
If you love The Hunger Games and the numerous dystopian novels that are on YA shelves right now, this writer recommends you pick up The Handmaid’s Tale and see how Atwood was talking about similar events and themes thirty years ago. It’s a classic.