Good news and bad news for fans of the brilliant Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood. The good: Atwood is the first contributor to a new public art project called The Future Library project, meaning that she will add an unpublished, previously unread manuscript to the collection. The bad news? You won’t be able to read that manuscript until 2114.
The Future Library was the brainchild of Scottish artist Katie Paterson, who planted 1,000 trees this summer in Norway. The idea is that one artist a year will contribute a new text to the library’s collection. In a century, the saplings that Paterson planted—then, presumably, matured into full-grown trees—will be cut down and transformed into paper for the contributed manuscripts to be printed on.
“What a pleasure,” Atwood told The Guardian. “You don’t have to be around for the part when if it’s a good review the publisher takes credit for it and if it’s a bad review it’s all your fault. When you write any book, you do not know who’s going to read it, and when they’re going to read it. You don’t know who they will be, you don’t know their age, or gender, or nationality, or anything else about them. So books, anyway, really are like the message in the bottle.”
Until the trees are cut down and pulped into paper, Atwood’s work will stay alongside texts from other authors at the Deichmanske public library, sealed from public view. As for what the story’s about? “I’m not telling,” Atwood said.