Global Citizen is a community of people like you

People who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges. Extreme poverty ends with you.


Bestselling author buries manuscript until 2114 to save trees


New York Times bestselling author of Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell, has written a new manuscript titled Me Flows What You Call Time. But here’s the catch — the book will remain unpublished and unread until 1,000 Norwegian trees come to maturity.

Mitchell’s work was commissioned by Framtidsbiblioteket, or Future Library, to serve as a time capsule for books.

Mitchell is the second author to submit a work to the new Oslo public library -- scheduled to open in 2019. Margaret Atwood was the first author to do so with her manuscript, Scribbler Moon.

The project was conceived by Scottish artist Katie Paterson’s Future Library project and is a bet on the staying power of printed books. Every year for 100 years, a new author will contribute a new work to the project. The works will be read in 2114, when the newly matured trees are chopped down to provide paper for a published anthology of the texts.

Each new author will climb to a spot in the forest above Oslo and surrender their manuscripts in a short ceremony.

“It’s a little glimmer of hope in a season of highly depressing news cycles, that affirms we are in with a chance of civilization in 100 years,” Mitchell told The Guardian. “Everything is telling us that we’re doomed, but the Future Library is a candidate on the ballot paper for possible futures. It brings hope that we are more resilient than we think: that we will be here, that there will be trees, that there will be books, readers and civilization.”

Authors chosen to contribute to Future Library can write whatever they like about whatever they like in any language. The only rule is that they cannot speak about their writing or show it to anyone, and they have to deliver a hard copy at the ceremony.  

Mitchell completed the work at 1 a.m. the day he left for Norway, where he handed over a copy during his ceremony in the forest Saturday, May 28, according to The Bookseller.

“We have to trust [what] they have written – imagine saying yes, and then time running out,” Lisa Le Feuvre, a curator for the project, also told The Guardian. “Nobody in your lifetime would know that you had just repeated the alphabet 100 times over. Does it matter if a writer is deemed lazy when they can’t hear the judgment with their own ears?”

The manuscript will now be sealed and placed alongside Atwood’s work. The manuscripts will be watched over and carefully tended to by a trust of experts in Oslo’s new public library.

Mitchell wrote in a short essay for the Future Library project that he thinks the project is a force of good in a society that has become pessimistic.

"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," he wrote.

While it’s unfortunate that many of us will likely never get to read Mitchell’s new novel, this is good news for the environment.

Trees create an ecosystem that provides comfortable habitats and food for birds and other animals. Trees also absorb carbon dioxide and potentially harmful gasses, such as sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide, from the air and release oxygen. In fact, a single tree produces approximately 260 pounds of oxygen per year, or enough oxygen annually to support four people.

So sit back and enjoy a breath of fresh air while we wait 100 years in anticipation of the next great novel.