Future Library: Valeria Luiselli joins 100-year time capsule

Future Library: Valeria Luiselli joins 100-year time capsule

Preserving literary legacy: Future Library's century-long project

by Suswati Basu
1 comment

In the quiet realms of a library in Norway, a remarkable project is unfolding—one that defies the fast-paced nature of our modern world. The Future Library or Framtidsbiblioteket, situated in a serene forest, is embarking on a century-long endeavour that embodies the essence of time, hope, and literature.

The time capsule library: a century-long literary odyssey

Established nine years ago by Scottish artist Katie Paterson, the Future Library is a unique initiative that invites prominent authors to contribute manuscripts that will remain sealed and unread until the year 2114. Paterson encapsulates the project’s essence by emphasising “time and longevity” and the significance of “hope and rituals.”

Future Library: Valeria Luiselli added to time capsule
Future Library: Valeria Luiselli added to time capsule. Credit: Suswati Basu / How To Be Books / Ángel Soto Saldivar

Each year, celebrated authors receive invitations from the Future Library Trust to participate in this extraordinary literary venture. However, there is a twist—the authors can only reveal the title of their work when they accept the invitation. They are then granted nearly a year to craft their manuscripts, free from any restrictions on length or genre. Yet, the most intriguing rule is that the authors are forbidden to share their stories with anyone, not even editors or family.

Read: Black to the Future: top storytelling voices on demystifying genre

The tenth author to join this illustrious roster is Valeria Luiselli, a renowned writer born in Mexico City and raised in diverse cultural landscapes. Luiselli’s work delves into themes of migration, language, and identity, with notable books such as ‘Sidewalks,’ ‘Faces in the Crowd,’ ‘The Story of My Teeth,’ and ‘Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions.’ Her addition marks a decade of the Future Library project, and she will submit her manuscript to the forest in May 2024.

“I am sure there will be curiosity, and people that fall fiercely in love, and long conversations. That is not so hard to imagine.”

Valeria Luiselli

Luiselli said in a statement: “I hope, with all my strength and longing and capacity to imagine, that in the year 2114, there will be an abundance of musical scores, wild horses, a cappella choirs, oil-paintings, baobabs, astrological predictions, humpback whales, old and new languages, blooming saguaros, hands that write, and eyes that read.”

The Future Library Trust is tasked with selecting and inviting authors while ensuring the preservation of this literary art piece for a full century. The trustees, including Paterson, Ingeri Engelstad, Håkon Harket, Merete Lie, Simon Prosser, Poul Erik Tøjner, and Anne Beate Hovind, form a dedicated team overseeing the project.

Read: Does AI mean the end of literature? 

Paterson, despite being the creator of the Future Library, admits that she remains in the dark about the contents of the manuscripts. “Of course, I want to know, but if I looked at them, it would break the spell of the whole thing,” she confesses.

The manuscripts, once completed, will be printed on paper sourced from the very trees surrounding the library’s forest. These works will then find their place in a hushed chamber inside the Oslo Public Library, nestled within glass drawers, each bearing the author’s name.

In recent years, the Future Library has inaugurated notable writers like Tsitsi Dangarembga, Karl Ove Knausgård, and Ocean Vuong. Margaret Atwood, author of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” has also contributed to this extraordinary literary time capsule.

Margaret Atwood – the first writer for Future Library.

Who are the authors of the Future Library project so far?

  • 2014 – Margaret Atwood, Scribbler Moon.
  • 2015 – David Mitchell, From Me Flows What You Call Time.
  • 2016 – Sjón, As My Brow Brushes On The Tunics Of Angels or The Drop Tower, the Roller Coaster, the Whirling Cups and other Instruments of Worship from the Post-Industrial Age.
  • 2017 – Elif Shafak, The Last Taboo.
  • 2018 – Han Kang, Dear Son, My Beloved.
  • 2019 – Karl Ove Knausgård, Blind Book.
  • 2020 – Ocean Vuong, King Philip.
  • 2021 – Tsitsi Dangarembga, Narini and Her Donkey.
  • 2022 – Judith Schalansky, Fluff and Splinters: a Chronicle.
  • 2023 – Valeria Luiselli

Preserving the literary legacy: a commitment to future generations

The selection of authors for this project hinges on their outstanding contributions to literature and poetry, as well as their ability to ignite the imagination of present and future generations. “Imagination” and “time” are the keywords guiding the selection process. The Future Library Trust aims to invite a total of one hundred exceptional writers, regardless of nationality or age, to contribute works across various genres and languages, leaving the length of the piece entirely to the author’s discretion.

On June 8th, 2022, the Future Library Trust and the City of Oslo solidified their commitment to this ambitious endeavour by signing a 100-year agreement. This agreement secures the Future Library forest’s future, ensuring its preservation for the next century—the very trees that will provide the paper for the manuscripts to be printed in 2114. The Silent Room in Deichman Bjørvika, constructed from the same trees, is designated as the final resting place for these manuscripts.

Hovind, Chair of the Future Library Trust, reflects on this significant contract, noting that it symbolises Oslo’s devotion to art, the environment, community, and the written word. She believes it signifies a commitment to and trust in future generations, expressing confidence that Oslo will continue to embody these ideals in the years to come.

Vice Mayor for Culture and Sport, Omar Samy Gamal, sees the Future Library as a symbol of shared hope and commitment. In a world marked by uncertainty, this project represents humanity’s collective dedication to preserving a lasting legacy for future generations—a gift of a hundred unique texts to those who will follow.

Can you visit the Future Library?

The manuscripts find their sanctuary within a meticulously crafted chamber known as "The Silent Room," nestled within Oslo's primary public library in Bjørvika, adjacent to the iconic Oslo Opera House. This sanctum began welcoming visitors from June 12th, 2022.

Describing the unique location, Paterson explains, "The room is situated on the top floor of the library. The positioning of the Future Library room looks in the direction of the forest, which we can glimpse in the horizon."

Within this confined yet intimate space, only accommodating one or two individuals at any given time, the manuscripts rest in quiet reverence. Each manuscript bears the author's name, the title of their literary creation, and the year of its inception, allowing visitors to engage with these enigmatic literary treasures.

The Future Library stands as a testament to the enduring power of literature, bridging the gap between the present and a future yet to unfold, all the while nurturing the imagination and the boundless possibilities of storytelling.

Subscribe to my newsletter for new blog posts, recommendations & episodes. Let’s stay updated!


Make a one-time donation

Make a monthly donation

Make a yearly donation

Choose an amount


Or enter a custom amount


Your contribution is appreciated, as everything you give we put back so we can provide the best information.

Your contribution is appreciated, as everything you give we put back so we can provide the best information.

Your contribution is appreciated, as everything you give we put back so we can provide the best information.

DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly

You may also like

1 comment

Elif Shafak: literature as a tool for diversity and acceptance - How To Be Books December 2, 2023 - 2:03 pm

[…] Read: Future Library: Valeria Luiselli joins 100-year time capsule […]


Leave a Reply

Are you sure want to unlock this post?
Unlock left : 0
Are you sure want to cancel subscription?