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Margaret Atwood’s Next Book Will Be A “Message In A Bottle” For Readers In 2114

The novelist is the first author to commit to public art project Future Library.

Award-winning author Margaret Atwood is writing a new book–but don’t expect to pre-order it on Amazon anytime soon. The book will be the first text included in Future Library, a public art project set to unfold over the next century.

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Future Library is the brainchild of Scottish artist Katie Paterson. Every year for the next 100 years, the trust she has created will invite a notable author to contribute an original manuscript to Paterson’s time capsule-cum-library, a custom-built room within Norway’s new Oslo Public Library. In parallel, the Paterson is planting 1,000 trees in Nordmarka, outside Oslo. The content of the manuscripts will remain secret until 2114, when the trust, managed by Paterson’s successors, will publish each text on paper made from the new forest.

Flickr user Horia Varlan

Atwood, who compared the project to sending a message in a bottle to future readers, says she has already purchased archival paper and is relishing the chance to keep a secret. “I’m finding it very delicious, because I get to say to people like you, I’m not telling,” she told the Guardian. She set her most famous novel, 1985’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” in a dystopian near-future, exploring themes related to gender, politics, and religion.

Participating authors, Paterson says, will be granted “incredible freedom” in terms of subject matter and form. “They can write whatever they like, from a short story to a novel, in any language and any context,” she says. “We’re just asking that it be on the theme of imagination and time, which they can take in so many directions. I think it’s important that the writing reflects maybe something of this moment in time, so when future readers open the book, they will have some kind of reflection of how we were living in this moment.”

Until then, patient readers will be able to visit Future Library’s wood-paneled home in Oslo, and see the names of the authors and the titles of their texts. Waiting for the stories to be revealed will require patience that extends across generations.

“Nobody reads any of these texts until far in the future,” Paterson says, but “we’ve put the roots in the ground and the trees are beginning to grow.”

[H/T The Guardian]

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About the author

Senior Writer Ainsley Harris joined Fast Company in 2014. Follow her on Twitter at @ainsleyoc.

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