A thousand spruce trees have just been planted in a forest near Oslo. In a century, the trees will be cut down and made into paper to print books that have never been read before. The project is called the Future Library, and Margaret Atwood has agreed to contribute the collection's first work.
The Future Library was conceived by Scottish artist Katie Peterson. Every year from 2014 to 2114, Peterson and the Future Library Trust—consisting of leading publishers and editors — will invite one writer to contribute a new text to a growing collection of unpublished, unread manuscripts.
Those 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, the room 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.
Commenting on being selected as the inaugural writer of this 100-year project, Atwood said, "I am very honored, and also happy to be part of this endeavor. This project, at least, believes the human race will still be around in a hundred years!"
As the Pacific Standard reports, that belief is at the core of the project:
The Future Library is optimistic about civilization, but also the environment and literature. Peterson is sanguine about the forest surviving, but also about human society having an appetite for art and the desire to read the printed word a century from now.
This isn't a time capsule so much as a cultural hope chest, a collection of poems and stories created and curated one by one for posterity until finally they are all printed together. Peterson has called the project her "most ambitious artwork to date," one that she first thought of years ago by "making a connection with tree rings to chapters—the material nature of paper, pulp and books, and imagining the writer's thoughts infusing themselves, 'becoming' the trees. Almost as if the trees absorb the writer's words like air or water, and the tree rings become chapters, spaced out over the years to come."
In the video below, Atwood talks more about her involvement in the project. "We'll be able to communicate across time, which is what any book is in any case," she observes. "It's always a communication across space and time. This one is just a little bit longer."