Future Library: Message to the future

What will humanity be reading in a century? Will paper books still be read? Visionary author Margaret Atwood is the first to contribute a secret story to Future Library, a unique 100-year artwork.

Designed by Scottish artist Katie Paterson, Future Library is a real place, created for Oslo, Norway. Part of this project is a forest of 1000 trees, planted in Nordmarka, near Oslo, which will mature in 100 years to provide paper on which to print this unique anthology. A room in Oslo’s new library, made from trees from the same forest, will store these future books. Until 2114, visitors to this room can wonder at what kinds of fiction, poetry, non-fiction, and stories the library will encompass, and create these potential works in their minds. Imagine growing a book over a hundred years!

A different author contributor will be honoured each year. When asked, Atwood declined to reveal anything about her story, because secrecy is “part of the deal.”


“I am very honoured, and also happy to be part of this endeavor. This project, at least, believes the human race will still be around in a hundred years! Future Library is bound to attract a lot of attention over the decades, as people follow the progress of the trees, note what takes up residence in and around them, and try to guess what the writers have put into their sealed boxes.”

Margaret Atwood


In this video, Margaret Atwood calls any book “a communication across space and time.” As a longtime fan and admirer of Atwood’s writing, I just wish I could live to read her story.

Margaret Atwood – the first writer for Future Library from Katie Paterson on Vimeo.

Margaret Atwood – Live from Word on the Street

Margaret Atwood celebrated the 20th Annual Word on the Street festival with a technological twist. Known for her invention of the LongPen, a multimedia device which allows her to remotely sign autographs and talk to fans, Atwood has gone one step further on the book tour for her latest novel, The Year of the Flood.

Sunday September 27, she appeared virtually in Vancouver and Halifax from the Scotiabank Bestsellers Stage at Word on the Street, Toronto. After a reading from her novel, Atwood answered questions from fans in Halifax, Vancouver and finally, from the live Toronto audience.

The images of Vancouver and Halifax looked grainy and there were some difficulties with the sound in Vancouver but the experiment inspired plenty of applause. As Atwood put it, the LongPen is “a way of connecting with people across space.” For her, all technology is “neutral,” an extension of “human bodies, human desires and fears.”

Atwood has taken to blogging and to composing Twitter Tweets to promote this latest book, a companion to her Oryx and Crake which came out in 2003. With her characteristic wit, Atwood promised those participating in the coast-to-coast reading: “You will all be mentioned in this blog, although possibly not individually.”

Flood revisits the same post-apocalyptic world as Oryx and Crake, but this time, the point-of-view characters are female. Part of the inspiration, Atwood said, came from people asking her why she had used a male protagonist in that novel.

When asked a general question about sources of inspiration, Atwood hesitated. Instead of giving the usual laundry-list of influences, she cited all the books she read between the ages of five and sixteen as triggers for the desire to write. Once you begin writing, she explained, it becomes less a question of inspiration than being immersed in the process.

Where do her characters come from? She is often inspired by a plot that seems to be going somewhere. Beginning with a situation and using a kind of actor’s improvisation, Atwood builds, layers by layer, until the character emerges.