Monday, June 1, 2015

Want to read Margaret Atwood’s new book? You’ll have to wait… for 100 years

If you want to read Margaret Atwood’s latest piece of writing, Scribbler Moon, you will have to wait a while, say, for about ninety nine years.

Artist Katie Paterson accepts the first Future Library
manuscript from Margaret Atwood
Photo (c) Kristin Von Hirsch 2016
Atwood is the first contributing author to the Future Library project, for which Scottish artist Katie Paterson and The City of Oslo have planted a thousand trees in a forest just outside the city. As I said in my blog post last October when the project was launched, the trees will be looked after for one hundred years, until 2114.  In each of those hundred years, one author will be commissioned to write a manuscript of some sort and that piece of writing will be placed, unpublished, in a secure and specially designed room in the new public library being built in Oslo. They will all remain unread until the collection of one hundred manuscripts is complete. Then in 2114, the trees will be cut down and the wood will be used to supply paper for a special anthology of books in which 100 years of writing will be published.

The Canadian author delivered her manuscript to Katie Paterson this week, deep in the heart of the Future Library itself, in the Nordmarka forest just outside the Oslo, but it remains a secret as to whether it is a poem, short story, novel or memoir. No one else will know until 2114.

"There’s something magical about it," Atwood said as she handed over her work. "It’s like Sleeping Beauty. The texts are going to slumber for 100 years and then they’ll wake up, come to life again. It’s a fairytale length of time. She slept for 100 years.

"I am sending a manuscript into time. Will any human beings be waiting there to receive it? Will there be a ‘Norway’? Will there be a ‘forest’? Will there be a ‘library’? How strange it is to think of my own voice – silent by then for a long time – suddenly being awakened, after 100 years."

David Mitchell
The next contributor to Future Library will be David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks

He said, "Imagine if the Future Library had been conceived in 1914 and 100 authors from all over the world had written 100 volumes between then and today, unseen until now. What a human highway through time to be a part of. Contributing and belonging to a narrative arc longer than your own lifespan is good for your soul."

Katie Paterson created the image below to symbolize the Future Library. A tree trunk with a tiny blue "2014" at its center, 100 growth rings expand until, at the top right outside edge, there is another tiny blue date, 2114.

Katie Paterson's Future Library icon

As the hundred years pass, future contributors will be announced year by year. Some will be familiar to us now, though it is startling to realize that many will not even have been born yet.

For more information, visit Future Library here.