By Deb A.
"A forest in Norway is growing. In 100 years it will become an anthology of books."
This is how Scottish artist Katie Paterson introduces her latest work, Future Library. The concept is both poetically simple and breathtakingly ambitious, with its final form only being made available one century into the future.
The project begins with a thousand trees that were recently planted in a forest outside of Oslo. Their hundred-year destiny is to be turned into an anthology of one hundred contributions that will be written, one per year, specifically for Future Library; the manuscripts will remain unread and wholly unknown by all but their respective authors until they are printed in 2114.
A panel consisting of literary experts and Katie Paterson (for as long as she lives) will invite one outstanding author per year to contribute a text, which will be stored in the New Deichmanske Public Library, in a room specially designed by the artist and lined with wood from the forest. The first manuscript, by Margaret Atwood, is currently underway and will be handed over for storage next year.
It is unlikely that many of those who contribute an early piece to this artistic time capsule will live to see the reaction of readers in 2114, but this doesn't bother Ms. Atwood, who quipped to The Guardian that "you don't have to be around for the part when if it's a good review the publisher takes credit for it and if it's a bad review it's all your fault."
Nonetheless, there are challenges for everyone involved: the authors, in particular those at the start of the process, will be writing for an utterly unpredictable readership, and will have no way of knowing how their work will be interpreted, or whether it will be appreciated, let alone understood. Nor will Ms. Paterson be able to experience her work's culmination. But for both authors and artist, Future Library transcends the demands of its timeline, which also include logistical challenges such as the potential need for a cultural and linguistic translator, as well as an actual printing press (the latter will be stored with the manuscripts in order to ensure that creating actual physical paper books will still be possible in 2114).
Future Library, according to Ms. Paterson, is nothing less than a melding of nature, art and literature that involves "the interconnectedness of things, those living now and still to come."
Don't forget to leave a note for your grandchildren.
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