A golden harp plays in the middle of a Norwegian forest and an operatic voice sings out as a small crowd waits for the reveal of an unseen manuscript from one of the world’s best writers. It’s all part of a special ceremony to celebrate a 100-year project that’s already winning awards, even though its much lauded Silent Room won’t open until 2019. Called Future Library, the project has attracted the likes of Margaret Atwood, among others, to contribute new works that won’t be read for a century. This year, Icelandic author Sjón, perhaps best known for his work with Bjork, contributed a manuscript.
Scottish artist Katie Paterson conceived of and launched the Future Library project in 2014, with plans to commission one unpublished book from a different author each year for 100 years, only to be published in 2114. Those stories will be printed on paper made from 1,000 trees planted in the forest just north of Oslo for this purpose. The books will be on display in the Silent Room when it opens, but you won’t be able to read them for so many decades. Most likely, none of us will be reading them at all. But hopefully, someone will. “It’s about hope. It’s about trust,” says Anne Beate Hovind, who oversees the project.
Each year, the author travels to Oslo for a ceremony in the forest before sealing the stories away in the library. The first year featured Atwood; last year it was David Mitchell; “People cry. I cry every year,” Hovind says, adding that it’s all about taking time to reflect and trying to preserve and appreciate what we have—while we still have it. It all ties into climate change, she says.
“To be asked to contribute to Future Library, a literally growing library of forest and world literature, has been an exercise in understanding how the future is shaped by all of us one gesture at the time,” says Sjón. “During the walk to the forest where I handed over my manuscript, I felt I was walking in a living metaphor for the nature of literature as a force in human society. Two authors have walked that route before me and 97 will follow. And it was humbling to meet the trees that will sacrifice their bodies to become books in 2114. Their tiny bodies will become the contemporaries of our readers.”
Learn more about Future Library here.