Writers blocked: the new works by Margaret Atwood and David Mitchell that you can’t read till 2114

An intriguing literary project by visual artist Katie Paterson called Future Library is putting novelists’ work in storage for a century

Award winning artist Katie Paterson: Previous projects include mapping all the Universe’s dead stars, compiling a slide archive of the history of darkness across the ages and sending a re-cast meteorite back into space. (Photo by David M Benett/Getty Images)

Award winning artist Katie Paterson: Previous projects include mapping all the Universe’s dead stars, compiling a slide archive of the history of darkness across the ages and sending a re-cast meteorite back into space. (Photo by David M Benett/Getty Images)

 

The intriguing Future Library project is to get its second major donation on Saturday, May 28th, from novelist David Mitchell in Oslo, Norway. He follows in the literary footsteps of Margaret Atwood who launched the project last year.

Future Library is a public artwork by Katie Paterson that will take shape in Oslo over the next century. Famous authors are asked to create a text for the library, with one writer submitting each year. These will be held in trust, unpublished, until 2114. A thousand trees have been planted in the Nordmarka forest outside the city, and these will supply the paper for a special anthology of books to be printed once the library is completed in 100 years’ time.

The manuscripts will be held in a vault the new Deichmanske Public Library, which will open in 2019 in Bjørvika, Oslo. The plan is that no adult living today will know what is inside the boxes, other than that they are texts of some kind that will, according to the organisers, “withstand the ravages of time and be technologically available in the year 2114”.

Atwood’s story from last year was called Scribbler Moon. Mitchell, now based in Cork, will hand over his text during an early-morning intimate ceremony in the middle of the Nordmarka forest while wood fires burn. The ceremony will be marked with coffee and chocolate.

Katie Paterson’s work has a particularly ambitious streak. Previous projects include mapping all the Universe’s dead stars, compiling a slide archive of the history of darkness across the ages, custom-making a light bulb to simulate the experience of moonlight, burying a nano- sized grain of sand deep within the Sahara desert, and sending a re-cast meteorite back into space.

She is particularly delighted that Mitchell is this year’s contributor. “David Mitchell makes the world a spirited place,” she said. “His work is transporting and polyphonic, blending time, dreams and reality . . . His locked-away text will allow future generations to telescope into other worlds.”

Of the project Mitchell said: “For me it’s a vote of confidence in the future of culture. The project is a declaration of belief that, one century from now, despite the threats to civilisation posed by climate change and its deniers, by racist demagogues and by death-cultists, our great-grandchildren will still value trees, books, reading and narrative.’

For more, see futurelibrary.no

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