This time capsule of the unpublished work of famous writers will grow in Norway for a century. What does it tell us about the Anthropocene?
Future Library can also challenge other facets of life in Norway. For example, Norwegians are known for their keen sense of allemannsretten, or the right of all men to access nature. It is an illustrated belief in art and in law, from the sculptor’s works from the early 20th century Gustav Vigeland ‘right to roam’ codes that grant everyone the right to roam on all uncultivated land, including privately owned land. But such unbridled access to nature can end up posing challenges for Future Library. Already, the grove appears to be at capacity for the annual handover ceremony and organizers are unable to restrict access to a public forest. For now, the best alternative is to stream the event live from your home.
Yet Future Library is structured around this sense of scarcity and the longing it engenders. For some, creating a library for future generations is a source of frustration. As one viewer put it, the project looks less like giving something for the future detention something people alive today. But for others, it’s the part of Future Library that has the most appeal. “It’s not all for us to consume now,” Dangarembga, the Zimbabwean novelist, told a crowd at the downtown public library. Growing up between South East Africa and England, “exclusion is so normal for me,” she explained. For citizens of the Northern Hemisphere, who accumulate wealth and power at the expense of the planet itself, Future Library may offer a long-awaited lesson.
On the eve of the 2022 handover ceremony, Paterson and two former Future Library contributors gathered at the edge of a windy rock along the Oslofjord to discuss the weather, in particular how the pandemic in changed their perception. For Paterson, the weather opened up in lockdown, allowing her to redouble her artistic efforts, she told the crowd, as the wind shook the blossoms of a nearby chestnut tree. For Icelandic poet Sjón, who writes his books, including his 2017 submission to the Future Library, in an old fisherman’s house, time has practically disappeared. And the British novelist David Mitchell, notably the author of cloud atlas, who submitted his work Future Library in 2016, found he was living in a “temporal sandwich”, suspended between what has happened and what will happen.