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22nd Century Writing in the Making: The Future Library

What will we read in 100 years? Probably nothing, if they don’t come up with a solution to the natural consequence of ageing. Of course there are these timeless classics that will endure the passing of time and people will revel forever, something that Homer, Shakespeare, Goethe, Dickens, Austen, Poe or Kafka can tell you a thing or two about. We don’t even know if picking up a book in its traditional form and paper shape is going to be a thing in the 22nd century, but at least there is a bunch of new works that will most certainly hit the bookshops (or whatever people go to these days).

Two years ago, Scottish artist Katie Paterson launched her much-noticed project ‘Future Library’ that gives us a tiny glimpse into the future of reading: A forest of 1000 trees was planted in Oslo’s Nordmarka Forest to supply the paper for an anthology of 100 books, to be unveiled in 2114. With every passing year, an author is selected by Paterson to produce a work of writing for the Future Library, which then goes to the archive in the New Public Deuchmanske Library in Oslo. Each manuscript is kept under wraps, its contents only known to the authors themselves.

This past week, Paterson announced the latest addition to her project: After ‘Scribbler Moon’ by prizewinning poet and essayist Margaret Atwood and David Mitchell’s ‘From Me Flows What You Call Time’, it’s acclaimed Icelandic author Sjón who contributes a new piece of writing to the mix – a yet untitled story in his native language.

It must be quite an intricate and exciting way to face the task of creating work for an audience of the future, people that will inevitably be confronted with the ideas, struggles and culture of a society entirely foreign to them. The writers of today are suddenly, without experiencing it, becoming 22nd century writers. Will they try to convey a message, communicate with a generation unknown or just pass on another peerless long or short story, prose or poem? At least you and me will not be around to figure this out.

Future Library

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