Future Library

“A forest in Norway is growing. In 100 years it will become an anthology of books.”

The Future Library is an idea amazing, in part, for its simplicity. From the website:

A thousand trees have been planted in Nordmarka, a forest just outside Oslo, which will supply paper for a special anthology of books to be printed in one hundred years time. Between now and then, one writer every year will contribute a text, with the writings held in trust, unpublished, until 2114. Tending the forest and ensuring its preservation for the 100-year duration of the artwork finds a conceptual counterpoint in the invitation extended to each writer: to conceive and produce a work in the hopes of finding a receptive reader in an unknown future.”

It’s amazing, also, as a provision of profound altruism. It takes an idea which is ordinarily abstract – the future – and gives it both dimension and a clear function; the former being Nordmarka, the latter its trees and the writers whose words will, if the project fulfills its aims, mark them a century from now.

It’s also fascinating from a writing standpoint—terrifying, in its way, to think of never seeing one’s work received, and likewise of the reader’s admission to that work determined by nothing but the time allotted them on this planet. None of us here, now, will know what Margaret Atwood’s Scribbler Moon entails; neither David Mitchell’s contribution, nor those by any other.

futurelibraryfingerprintBut Katie Paterson, Scottish artist and creative progenitor of Future Library, has not intended it for our eyes. The people for which it is intended will have been – unbeknownst to them – the results of a harrowing hope experiment. Whether or not “we will be able to communicate across time,” as Atwood puts it, “which is what any book is in any case: it’s always a communication across space and time; this one is just a little bit longer.”

The forbidden fruits here – the works themselves – are instead more like a collective treetap, and Future Library the trust that not only will it remain intact for the next hundred years and beyond, but so too will we.

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