Read David Mitchell's Newest Book — In The Year 2114
Photograph: Kristin von Hirsch/Bjørvika Utvikling
Any author will tell you that the wait between finishing a manuscript and seeing your book in print is interminable.
For David Mitchell's latest work, that wait is even longer than usual.
David Mitchell finished his manuscript for From Me Flows What We Call Time and has submitted it to the Future Library Project for publication in the year 2114.
Yes, that's just under a hundred years from now.
Here's how the Future Library Project works:
Step 1: A forest was planted in Norway in 2014.
Step 2: Authors write manuscripts for the project under the stipulation that they don't speak about their manuscript, show it to anyone, and that they hand over a hard copy and a digital copy.
Step 3: Manuscripts are stored under lock and key, and they will remain unread and unavailable for 100 years.
Step 4: At the 100-year mark, aka in The Future, parts of the forest planted in Norway will be cut down, the wood will be used to make paper, and Mitchell's book will be printed on that paper.
Over the next 100 years, one author per year will be selected to write a manuscript that will undergo the same process. Mitchell follows after last year's announcement that Margaret Atwood had submitted a manuscript to the project.
How was the unusual writing process for Mitchell?
...quite liberating, because I won’t be around to take the consequences of this being good, or bad ... But I’m sandwiched between Margaret Atwood, and no doubt some shit-hot other writer [yet to be revealed]. So it better be good. What a historic fool of epochal proportions I’d look, if they opened it in 2114 and it wasn’t any good.
And when it came down to it, Mitchell wrote about how he said yes to the project because it was an investment in an optimistic future:
Katie Paterson will not be alive in 2114, nor Anne Beate Hovind, the Future Library’s coordinator, nor me, nor the next thirty or forty writers who deposit manuscripts in Deichman Library in Oslo, nor the foresters who tend the plantation of spruces. We have to trust our successors, and their successors, and theirs, to steer the project through a hundred years of political skulduggery, climate change, budget cutbacks and zombie apocalypses. We have to trust that ‘digital archeologists’ will manage to get inside ancient USB sticks. Katie Paterson has to trust me and my successors not to hand in a sheaf of blank A4 pages at the hand-over ceremony at the Future Forest at the end of May. We all have to trust that people not yet born will solve Known-Unknowns and Unknown-Unknowns. We trust that our trust is not misplaced. Being trusted often brings out the best in people – like when the cabin staff asks me to sit in the exit row, I actually read the ‘What to do in an Emergency’ sheet and feel enabled and alert. Trust is a force for good in our cynical world, and the Future Library is a trust-generator.
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