German writer Judith Schalansky has become the ninth author to be selected for the Future Library, which asks authors to create a work that will not be revealed to readers until 2114.
The Future Library is an organic artwork dreamed up by the Scottish artist Katie Paterson. It began in 2014 with the planting of 1,000 Norwegian spruces in a patch of forest outside Oslo, and one writer a year is asked to contribute a manuscript to the project.
The works, unseen by anyone but the authors themselves, are kept in a room lined with wood from the forest in the Deichman library in Oslo. In 2114, the trees in the forest will be felled, and manuscripts of the authors’ works printed for the first time.
Schalansky joins authors including Tsitsi Dangarembga, Margaret Atwood, Ocean Vuong and Karl Ove Knausgård in submitting a work to the Future Library.
The author said she was considering choosing “an ancient genre like a chronicle, a hymn or a lament” for her work, and described the Future Library as a “cult that I joyfully join”.
Schalansky said it was moving to know her text would be printed on the trees grown by the project. “The Future Library gives me the privilege of forming two exceptional relationships – an imaginary one with my shadowy future readers and a very tangible relationship with the raw material which, one day, when my body is long decayed, will help bring my words to life,” she added.
The author was born in East Germany and now lives in Berlin, where she works as a book designer and editor as well as a writer.
Her books include the international bestseller Atlas of Remote Islands, published in the UK as Pocket Atlas of Remote Islands. The book features maps of 50 remote islands alongside Schalansky’s descriptions and stories of their natural and human history. It won the award for most beautiful book of the year from the German Arts Foundation.
Reviewing the book in the Guardian, Robert Macfarlane said it “makes a magnificent case for the atlas to be recognised as literature, worthy of its original name – theatrum orbis terrarum, ‘the theatre of the world’.”
Schalansky is also the author of the novels The Giraffe’s Neck, translated into English by Shaun Whiteside, and An Inventory of Losses, translated into English by Jackie Smith and shortlisted for the International Booker prize in 2021.
Paterson said: “Judith Schalansky is a remarkable author who pays homage to a vanishing natural world. Weaving fiction, autobiography and history, she reflects on the loss of languages, landscapes, cultures and climates so characteristic of our era. Her writing brings the past into the present, calls to mind the forgotten, gives voice to the silenced and mourns the lost.”
The Future Library opened to the public this summer, and the authors selected so far had the opportunity to deliver their books personally into one each of the glass drawers in the “silent room” at the top floor of the Deichman library.
“It is stunning and moving to count myself part of this imaginary community whose texts will one day, when published, dialogue and interact with each other,” Schalansky said.