Atwood to occupy the first shelf space of Future Library

5th Sep 2014

Margaret Atwood
Is it possible to be madly jealous of future generations of readers? Yes - as it turns out. Scottish artist, Katie Paterson has conceived a century-long art project, which requires one writer to contribute a piece of fiction to a time-capsule library each year until it's opening in 2114.

The author to kickstart the locked collection of stories is FBS hero – Margaret Atwood. The Canadian, currently in the process of committing her word wizardry to  archival paper, says she is finding the process “delicious”.

Paterson was clearly thrilled to have Atwood on board: “I imagine her words growing through the trees, an unseen energy, activated and materialised, the tree rings becoming chapters in a book.” Given the writer’s preoccupation with themes of ecology and evolution, evident in her Maddaddam trilogy, the selection seems even more apt.

The wood from this forest will go on to provide the Future Library panelling and, eventually, the pages of the 100 booksThe project commenced earlier this summer with the planting of 100o trees in Nordmarka, near Oslo. The wood from this forest will go on to provide the Future Library panelling and, eventually, the pages of the 100 books. Paterson identified the environment as the heart of the project:

“[It] involves… the interconnectedness of things, those living now and still to come. It questions the present tendency to think in short bursts of time, making decisions only for us living now.”

The Future Library Trust have been appointed to help Paterson select the writers and ensure the completion of the project once she cannot. Steps have also been taken to ensure the stories can be reproduced in print form in 2114; the room containing the manuscripts will also have a working printing press on display.

Contemplating the durability of her work, Atwood conceded that the evolution of language might call for a “paleo-anthropologist to translate” some of it. But the writer remains unfazed by her future critics:

“when you write any book you do not know who’s going to read it, and you do not know when they’re going to read it. You don’t know… anything… about them. So books, anyway, really are like the message in the bottle.”

Until the unveiling next century, visitors to the Future Library will be able to view the chosen author’s names and the titles of their stories but the manuscripts will remain under lock and key.

Atwood is remaining tight-lipped about her work – “Wild horses would not drag it out of me”. So FBS readers, you have been warned: if it suddenly goes a bit quiet on site, you might find us pressed up against some glass in Oslo.

Who else do you think should make the Future Library shelves?