Imagine writing a book only to have it safely stored unseen by anyone for up to 100 years.

This is the reality to which famous writers and poets are subjecting their work as part of The Future Library project. 

It all starts with a forest of 1,000 trees planted near Oslo, Norway, which we will be harvested in 100 years and used to print a unique anthology – for people yet to be born! The anthology will be from books, poems or texts submitted by one author per year (one piece of work only)  for the next 100 years and apart from its creator no other human being alive will have seen their work. 

The creator of this living conceptual artwork is Katie Paterson, a Glaswegian visual artist. Trust is central to this project: trust that there is a future; trust that there will be a future that cares about art and the written word; trust that the work will be carried on; trust that writers have handed in complete work. After all – who is to know if only a sheaf of empty pages is handed over.

Katie Paterson says that ‘tending the forest and ensuring its preservation for the 100-year duration of the artwork finds conceptual counterpoint in the invitation extended to each writer: to conceive and produce a work in the hopes of finding a receptive reader in an unknown future’.

This is the beauty about this concept; it runs contrary to all expectations and desires of writers and readers. Often the writers battle to have their work read. Readers are always eager for an immediate access to the book. 

The first contributor to The Future Library was Margaret Atwood with her piece entitled ‘Scribbler Moon’. That is all we and anyone knows about the book. Although it might be a poem, a short story. No one knows.

Will her name still be known 100 years hence? Will her grandchildren or great-grandchildren attend the unveiling of the anthology in 2114? 

‘I am sending a manuscript into time,’ Margaret Atwood said at the time of delivering her work to The Future Library. ‘Will any human beings be waiting there to receive it? Will there be a ‘Norway’? Will there be a ‘forest’? Will there be a ‘library’?

‘How strange it is to think of my own voice – silent by then for a long time – suddenly being awakened, after a hundred years.

‘There’s something magical about it. It’s like Sleeping Beauty. The texts are going to slumber for 100 years and then they’ll wake up, come to life again. It’s a fairytale length of time. She slept for 100 years.’


David Mitchell’s book, entitled ‘From Me Flows What We Call Time’ is the second written text secreted within what is envisaged to be a specially designated room at the New Public Deichmanske Library, Oslo. Here the name of each writer and the name of their work will be on display in front of their work, hidden from view.  The famous ‘Cloud Atlas’ author found the writing process liberating and thrived in knowing he wouldn’t be alive for criticism. Furthermore he added, ‘Isn’t the prospect of a berth aboard an Ark of Literature with fellow-passengers of this calibre not a tempting one?’’

He stressed the topic of trust and belief in the future in his eloquent speech about the project.

‘Firstly, the Future Library project is a vote of confidence in the future.

‘We have to trust our successors, and their successors, and theirs, to steer the project through a hundred years of political skulduggery, climate change, budget cutbacks and zombie apocalypses. 

‘We have to trust that ‘digital archeologists’ will manage to get inside ancient USB sticks.’ 

Luckily the latter point has been taken into consideration and alongside an easily formatted version of the written work there will also be a printed paper copy. Belts and braces!

Will these writers find a receptive audience ten decades from now? What will the future generations make of the written words? How relevant will they find the stories? What will they make of the project?

What about you? What do you think of The Future Library? 

Here is a video link to video link to Katie Paterson in Norway discussing her artwork, where she says she imagines the ‘tree rings like chapters in a book’.

‘Nature, the soul, love, and God, one recognises through the heart, and not through the reason… Reason is a tool, a machine, which is driven by the spiritual fire.’  Dostoevsky

101 thoughts on “THE FUTURE LIBRARY

  1. This is fascinating! I had not heard of the project before reading your post, Annika! I wonder how the writing will change over the next 100 years.. I love the idea of it promoting the written word xx

    1. Christy, many thanks for your lovely comment! 😀 One can’t help but be caught up by this concept…hmm…yes, I wonder what writing will be like one hundred years from now. Often themes remain the same, but the style changes so much over time.

  2. This caught my eye in the sidebar Annika, as it was something I was fascinated by too – I had thought I’d write a post on it in the future, but I think now I don’t have to, because this is perfect!

    1. Andrea, thank you so much for your kind comment and great to know you had heard of this too. Oh, please do a post about this…I would love to read your take on it and visitors to your blog would love to learn about it! Warmest wishes and Happy Easter! 😀

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  4. This is such a mind- blowing idea… I have always thought that Hope was related to Book, (i.e Culture and Knowledge in other words… and this seem to be an expression of that… An excellent and praiseworthy project indeed… All my best wishes. Aquileana 🙂

    1. Beautiful sentiment and I think the concept of Hope is central to this project. The very idea of it was so exciting to read about and the more you think about the scale, particularly time-wise, the more I’m in awe of the Future Library.With warmest wishes.

  5. The authors must be great people, because when I think of it, I realize I get too excited to get my works read as soon as I have written it. It so happens that I don’t even proof read before publishing(blog posts). Once I get the solace that my ideas have been shared, I calm down and then begin the long process of proofreading. 😉 Therefore I find this quite amazing that people can wait for their words to get out for 100 years!

    1. What a wonderfully fresh perspective on this conversation! 😀 I love that you are so keen to have your words published and read; totally agree and to some degree I feel the same. However, the difference here with these authors I suppose is that they have already had many of their books successfully published and widely read. They probably fell for the mystique behind the concept! Thank you so much for your interesting comment.

      1. I do proof read my books twice and my two editors proof read them too. Freud would say that a clear sign of anal fixation but I am quite proud that all my published books are (more or less) without mistakes.
        In an average it takes my publishers two years from getting the manuscript to getting them in the bookshops. But these are the copies in the original language only. To sell the foreign rights and get them published in other languages took up to four or five years in former times. Now my agent draws the foreign right contracts with the original contracts for all the secondary rights. – I want to say that waiting is quite normal for an author. Therefore I like blogging, you are getting immediate response.
        Of course for me it’s not of such an interest what will be in a hundred years. Will there be books any longer? I hope so and growing these trees for the paper then – what a crazy idea. But I like it.
        All the best from North Norfolk coast

        1. I would have thought proof-reading a book through twice is more the norm than not. Thank you for sharing information regarding the path to publication of your books – I have gathered that patience is a key word in the whole process! Not my forte but I better learn!😀 I too enjoy the immediate response and contact with like-minded people here on WordPress as the writing process itself can become rather isolated. Oh, I loved the idea they are growing the trees for these books – goes hand in hand with the whole book idea and the sense of intrigue and faith draws me to the project as a whole. Warmest wishes to you

    1. Lovely to read your kindred enthusiasm for this project! I agree, the negative often rule the headlines so I jump on positive new exciting ventures – so much the better if it is to do with books/writing! 😀😀

  6. I wonder how many books are unread in the present library. I am ambivalent about this project, but recognise that it can do no harm and may do some limited good.

    1. Rod, I was hoping you’d comment on this as you often bring a fresh angle! So true about the no doubt millions of unread book…I wonder if this project is more about the human psyche and our attitude to the future…it might work just as well with paintings, photos…

    1. There’s a lot of living conceptual art but I guess this takes it beyond that even – I also hope it works out. There seems to be a great deal of commitment at the start! 😀

    1. Eve, I think to gain credibility they had to enrol some ‘big’ names and yes, wow, Margaret Attwood sets the bar high! Also assume after she came on board there is no difficulty ‘recruiting’ others for the years ahead. I know…couldn’t they just offer us a little peek…I’m not patient on a good day and knowing there is no chance I’ll read the works I’m getting edgy! 😀😀

  7. Such a fascinating project, Annika. I love the idea of leaving a legacy, a gift for future generations motivated by hope and love, not by the need for recognition or immediate reward.

    1. Susan, I think this trust in the future and in people to maintain the project is at the core of this Future Library. I believe, it seems so well organised and every ten years a new group will be selected to run it. Fingers crossed! 😀

    1. I agree, a colossal amount of work involved, so many people and from so many countries. Also hard just to find the funding I imagine;the City of Olso is picking up a large part of this fab!

  8. The article you wrote and posted was riveting, Annika! I like this amazing project and am fascinated about the two authors chosen. This would be so hard to decide, in my opinion, which one author to be chosen each year. Thanks for sharing this! 🙂

    1. Robin, that’s a good point – I wonder how and who chooses the authors. Like you say an almost impossible choice with so many great ones out there. I’m going to keep a look out for the ones whose work will be stored in this project in the coming years. So glad you enjoyed the post and many thanks for your lovely comment.

  9. This is quite an interesting undertaking. Seems to require having a lot of faith and also understanding and accepting the concept of one’s own mortality and immortality in a way.

    1. Kathy, you touch in two core elements I think in the project when there is so much darkness in the world The Future Library stands up to this negativity and proclaims its faith in next hundred years and beyond. It is also striking as you say where our own mortality is clearly illustrated but at the same time highlighting the immortality of the written word (hopefully!). Thank you so much for your thoughtful and considered comment. 😀

  10. Intriguing, Annika. I can’t imagine people not finding what has been written and submitted of interest. We still find words written thousands of years ago in Egypt of interest. Even now, I am fascinated with where my own words and photos end up. The Internet has opened up endless options it seems. I was quite amused about the comment of not having to listen to your critics. 🙂 –Curt

    1. Curt, his comment was honest and self-depreciating and definitely something writers can identify with! Oh, I too can’t imagine mankind losing its innate sense of curiosity and inquisitiveness – reading words from the past being one such example. I love that you are fascinated where your own words and photos end up – I’m just beginning to fully realise that with the internet I have no idea at all really where they go – lovely to be contacted by good people who care though!😀😀

  11. Anonymous

    Great blog Annika and a great idea. The only disappointing thing is I won’t be around to see it (or indeed read it). As for trust in the written word I believe that books will still be published in their current form – most electronic alternatives seem to be inaccessible after a few years (as you say about the 3.5″ floppy disc) – odds on the usb still being around in 100 years anyone!


    1. Mike, the march of technology is relentless and changeable – ha, had to laugh at your usb statement! Whatever new electronic book device is popular at the time I do hope they still read paper books and use the trees for the purpose they’re intended!

  12. PeterR

    A fascinating concept, involving a lot of trust in the future inhabitants of this earth. Makes you want to live an extra hundred years (I wish!), just to see it come to fruition.

    Interesting to see that they are also storing it all as “hard copy”. Ink on paper is not dead yet.

    1. Peter, I agree, the more I read this and know I’ll never see any of these texts, the more I want to see them – now! I was wondering how they stored the texts – thinking how I can’t even access data from my old 3.5” discs and that wasn’t that long ago! Yep, hooray for paper and print!! I just love the idea that these trees will be used to print the 100 books!

  13. Interesting concept. There is something to be said for ‘not being alive to hear criticism’. That may be the worst part of writing!

    I wonder if we’ll even read printed books anymore 100 years from now? Or will it all be on little digital devices.

    1. Jacqui, David Mitchell certainly had a good point there!! 😀😃 Don’t you just want to get a glimpse of the texts – more so when told there is no possibility of ever seeing them!

      I do feel it would be a loss if all paper books, which have survived for centuries, were only read on digital devices – or maybe they’ll be even mind-fed! Hopefully some form of paperbooks will survive – otherwise half of this project obsolete!

  14. What an interesting concept! Part of me, however, would like to see the trees left alive and well. In a hundred years, we should all be paperless, right? In any case, neat project. I have a hard time remembering the last two weeks much less imagine the future in a hundred years 😀

    1. Julie, I had to laugh at your final sentence – you’re one busy person and no wonder two weeks ago is but a distant memory! As for the future…this has my imagination flowing, wondering what the society will be like, how they will react to the project from the distant past. As for the paper, I think it would be a sad day where there are no paper books left! The forests in Scandinavia are well-managed and sustainable (more so than ever as are trees are planted than harvested!). As for these 1,000 trees they have a reprieve as normally they’d be cut down much earlier! Wishing you a lovely day with your muse and garden!😀

    1. Sometimes there are conceptual art pieces in progress which feel to exist only for their own sake – this project is worthwhile and moving on so many levels. I imagine in a 100 years there will be a lot of excitement and hype as the works are released!

  15. delphini510

    This is such a wonderful conception. Bringing together our creativity with that of the master creator – Nature itself. Like So many of your friends I love the trust shown for the future of our planet, its care and growth.
    Yes, the patience must be there too, if you are selected for such a task I am sure we would all find that we are prepared to wait – beyond our lifespan.

    I also love the magic about it, you mention the Sleeping beauty. Also the excitement as a child to hide a treasure under a tree.
    Thank you Annika

    1. Mirja, thank you for your lovely comment! 😀 I think we all have an innate sense of mystery and magic in our souls and this project plays to these elements within us. Love for nature, the child-like treasure seekers (which you mention), imagining what the written pieces of work, what will the unveiling be like…I for one would be be prepared to wait – only as there is no option! Otherwise I’m a very impatient person!

  16. I really like the concept of this. If I was selected to be one of the authors, I would write a story about my present because it would be fascinating to those in the future. The concept is also giving me a great idea on writing a kind a fantastical story about a just found hundred year old book. Hmmmm. 😉

    1. Pam, great that this is giving you inspiration for a story!! I already want to read it! Good idea about writing something relating to present life and you’re right, this ‘ancient’ history would no doubt be of interest to generations of the future. Well, one would hope so!

  17. That is so cool! I love the idea and can understand the magic around the projection forward in time – the release of all this stored writing after the artists are dead. It’s like a literary time capsule filled with original unseen gifts from the past. That book will be a best-seller when it finally comes out. The only sad thing is I won’t be around to read it.

    1. Diana, my natural impatience and frustration is trebled in the knowledge there is no way I’ll never know these books! That thought alone grabbed my attention as I like these two authors. However as you say there is a certain magic element – time-travel – almost enough to give one goose-bumps! Oh I do hope it is a bestseller and that the project is famous world-wide by then!😀

  18. This is very interesting. 100 years is quite a long time. I must say I like that tending trees is part of the project… I hope that in 100 years cutting them down for paper will seem even less appealing than it does today.

    1. Janice, to get a feel for the 100 years I thought back to 1916…and gosh, that is a long time ago. However so much of the writing from that era is hugely popular and relevant today, particularly the war poets. As for the trees I must admit after many years in the timber trade I understand how well managed the forests are in Scandinavia – sustainable and more. There are more trees there now then 100 years ago with over 70% of Sweden forest.

      1. I cast my mind back to 1916 too 🙂 That’s wonderful to know about Sweden’s forests! And sheds a new light on the project design. I must admit that as much as I’m enriching my appreciation of reading digital works, I still love words on paper. I grew up with that. It’ll be interesting to see to what extent paper print hangs on.

    1. Annette, it would definitely be fun to take part – maybe we have to set up our own version! I remember at school taking part in a time capsule event (as you mentioned on Chris’s blog) and each of us had to write a story to include in the buried capsule. Blimey…I wonder what I wrote!

    1. Jill, this was one small item in a magazine I read during the holidays and I instantly made notes in my notebook to share – just so wonderfully different and exciting. So glad you liked it.

  19. This is so cool. I want to be around in a hundred years just to read these books and compare them to books written in 100 years. And to see this forest before they cut it down which leaves me a bit sad. Thanks for sharing…

    1. JC, yes, the waiting for a 100 years and knowing we will never know the stories hidden from view is rather frustrating!!😃 As for the forest…I think over a decade experience and knowledge about the timber trade makes me less sentimental about the forest being cut down. They are more well-managed than ever, planting more each year. These trees are getting quite a reprieve – they are usually harvested well before 100 years!!

    1. Elaine, there is so much darkness in the world it seems at the moment so I eagerly read and research anything with a new positive angle – particularly book or writing related. As it was new to me I felt this was something I definitely wanted to share here.

  20. This is such a beautiful concept. The idea alone of believing in a future that cares about literature and the written word is one I support. If I were asked to contribute, I would.

    1. Oh it must be amazing to contribute to this project – you can almost here the child-like excitement and enthusiasm from these two authors. A wonderful idea for a piece of living art; it makes you wonder how Katie came up with the concept.

  21. Annika, I didn’t know about this project but it is very fascinating on many levels. I am so moved by the whole concept of having faith in our human race that we won’t extinguish ourselves and we will still appreciate the written word.

    1. Bernadette, that’s exactly what caught my attention when first reading a tiny snippet about this project. In this crazy world of ours there is deep faith and commitment in our future – something to celebrate!😀 thank you for your thoughtful comment and may the written world always have a strong presence in our future.

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