Internationally celebrated Canadian poet and novelist Margaret Atwood has been known as a trailblazer in the literary world for a long time, but the legendary writer is about to do something that has truly never been done before.
It has been announced that Atwood will take part in The Future Library, a time capsule initiative created by Scottish artist Katie Paterson. 74 year-old Margaret’s contribution will be the first to be added to Paterson’s collection of works that will be printed in exactly 100 years, meaning that we won’t see Margaret’s Future Library project until 2114. The time capsule will consist of works that will be printed on paper made from trees found specifically in a forest planted by Paterson. 1,000 trees were planted this summer in Norway, and will serve as the material for each participating author’s contribution. Atwood is the first author to sign on to the project.
— Margaret E. Atwood (@MargaretAtwood) September 5, 2014
Katie says that Atwood was a “dream” candidate for the literary initiative, and shared her excitement about the project as a whole with The Guardian.“For some writers I think it could be an incredible freedom – they can write whatever they like”, says Paterson. ” 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.”
Looking 100 years into the future, the Library founder says she imagines Margaret’s words “growing through the trees, an unseen energy, activated and materialised, the tree rings becoming chapters in a book”, and Atwood predicts that 2114 readers might need “a paleo-anthropologist to translate some of it for them”. Margaret explains that she believes language “will have changed over those 100 years. Maybe not so much as it changed between say 1400 and now, but it will have changed somewhat.”
For anyone curious as to what Atwood’s Future Library writings will be about, you unfortunately may never know because the Handmaiden’s Tale author isn’t telling. “Wild horses would not drag it out of me. It’s part of the contract you can’t tell anybody what you’re writing.” Atwood did reveal a small detail about the her eventually completed writing, which will be stored in a specially designed library in Oslo. “I will say that I’ve bought some special archival paper, which will not decay in its sealed box over 100 years”. Margaret’s work will be one of 100 contributions that will accumulate yearly until 2114.
Margaret says that the decision to take part in such a unique project aimed to preserve the future of literature was an easy one. “It is the kind of thing you either immediately say yes or no to. You don’t think about it for very long”, says Atwood. “I think it goes right back to that phase of our childhood when we used to bury little things in the backyard, hoping that someone would dig them up, long in the future, and say, ‘How interesting, this rusty old piece of tin, this little sack of marbles is. I wonder who put it there?'”
Atwood, a self-admitted Twitter fan, released her first poetry collection in 1961 and her first novel in 1969. She has published fourteen novels, many of them critically lauded, throughout her career. Margaret’s latest full-length offering is MaddAddam, released in 2013.
Margaret Atwood lives in Toronto with longtime partner and fellow author Graeme Gibson. Margaret has won over 55 awards internationally over the course of her 50+ years in the literary industry.