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‘The Future Library’ aka the worlds most selective library has one hell of a time capsule

David Mitchell, Sjón, Tsitsi Dangarembga, and Karl Ove Knausgård have ceremoniously hand-delivered their original manuscripts to the living breathing artwork of the Future Library.

Last Sunday The Future Library opened to the public in Oslo to mark the event of delivering the first lot of manuscripts written by some of the world’s most famous living authors to the “The silent room”. These works will not be read or published until 2114 when the Future Library will physically publish the manuscripts from the 1000 planted trees in the surrounding Normak forest, for all the world to read.

Perched on the top floor of the Deichman library, the manuscripts sit in special glass drawers, where they will remain for the next 92 years. It’s quite incredible to think that Paterson’s collection, will be unveiled and printed long after she has gone. I’m sure she has had at least one sneaky read before the manuscripts go into the locked draws. 

future library oslo
Katie Paterson and Sjon. Credit: Future Library.

Sjón, an Icelandic poet, novelist and lyricist, who is known for his collaborations with singer Björk told the guardian “this path here in the forest in Oslo (becoming) a metaphor for how literature works: it is the work of generations; writers are literally working in the footsteps of writers who went before them – and that is the magic of Katie’s work: she makes enormous concepts like time and the universe visible and understandable.” 

Sjón, who wrote his text in Icelandic, feels bleesed to be a part of the project but did express some concerns “ the vulnerability of my language, spoken by only 370,000 people” might mean it might not survive or find translators in 2114. Whether or not you are remembered in future years is “always a test you face as an author”, he said. “You have to be an author of your own times and if your work is readable in 100 years then good for you; if not, you did your best, and maybe you are better off not knowing you will be read in 100 years!”

Back in 2014, Atwood became the first author to take part in the project, which asks authors to write a text of any length or genre but not to reveal anything about it except the title. So far, eight works have now been written, from Scribbler Moon Margaret Atwood to The Last Taboo Elif Shafak, who join other literary talents  David Mitchell, Sjón, Han Kang, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Karl Ove Knausgård, and Ocean Vuong. A new author will be added to the collection every year.

Atwood has compared the project with Sleeping Beauty, remarking “how strange it is to think of my own voice – silent by then for a long time – suddenly being awakened after 100 years”.