The Future Library

Text: Solveig Hansen, 2022

A library for 100 books not yet written, to be printed on paper from trees not yet grown. Time span: 100 years. That was the idea behind the Future Library project.

The Future Library (@futurelibraryno) at Oslo’s Deichman Library (@deichmanbjorvika) is a space dedicated to an anthology of texts not yet written, except for a few. This is a 100-year project, running from 2014 to 2114. Every year, a selected author will contribute a manuscript to the library. The books will be printed and published after 2114 on paper from 1000 trees that have been planted specifically for this purpose in a forest just outside of Oslo.

The handover of each manuscript takes place at an annual ceremony in the forest where the trees are growing. At the same time, the title of the book is announced. The handover ceremony for 2019, 2020 and 2021 was held in 2022. Current contributors are:

2014 — Margaret Atwood, Scribbler Moon

2015 — David Mitchell, From Me Flows What You Call Time

2016 — Sjón, As My Brow Brushes On The Tunics Of Angels or The Drop Tower, the Roller Coaster, the Whirling Cups and other Instruments of Worship from the Post-Industrial Age

2017 — Elif Shafak, The Last Taboo

2018 — Han Kang, Dear Son, My Beloved

2019 — Karl Ove Knausgaard — Blindeboka (Blind Book)

2020 — Ocean Vuong — handover postponed

2021 — Tsitsi Dangarembga — Narina and Her Donkey

Next year’s author is Judith Schalansky. She will hand over her manuscript in spring 2023.

“How strange it is to think of my own voice — silent by then for a long time — suddenly being awakened, after 100 years. What is the first thing that voice will say as a not-yet-embodied hand draws it out of its container and opens it to the first page?” — Margaret Atwood

The artist behind the Future Library is Katie Paterson (@katiempaterson) from Scotland. Time and space are key words for her conceptual projects, examining the connection between people, nature, cosmos — over millions of years. “Short-sightedness may be the greatest threat to humanity,” she says.

Some of her projects: A phone line connected to a melting glacier for people to call in and listen to the sound of the melting ice. A map of dying stars, including a condolence letter every time a star died. A recast meteorite sent back into space.

The Future Library is like communicating through time and shaking hands with the future. We are connected to coming generations through our actions. Even if we don’t get to read the books, the process itself is intriguing and inspirational and invites to contemplation and conversations. What will the world look like in 100 years? Will books still be printed? Will the human race even survive to read the books? In this vulnerable moment of time, will we show responsibility and hand over a healthy world to future generations?

In this TED Talk, Paterson talks about some of her deep time artwork, including the Future Library:

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