Celebrated Icelandic poet, novelist and lyricist Sigurjón Birgir Sigurðsson, known as Sjón, has been named as the third writer to contribute to Future Library, a public artwork in Oslo, Norway, that aims to collect one original, secret story by a popular writer every year until 2114.
The artwork was created by Scottish artist Katie Paterson to unfold over 100 years. Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood was the first author to contribute in 2015 and British novelist David Mitchell followed, handing over his manuscript in Spring 2016.
In 2114 the collection of 100 manuscripts will be published as an anthology, made from paper supplied by a forest of a thousand trees planted outside of Oslo, in Nordmarka, that will grow in tandem with the authors' works. Between now and then, one writer every year will contribute a text, with the writings held in trust, unpublished, until the designated time.
The manuscripts will be held in a specially designed room in the new Deichmanske Public Library opening in 2019 in Bjørvika, Oslo.
No adult living today will ever know what is inside the boxes, as it is part of the authors' contract not to tell anybody what they are writing or have written, other than the title and that they are texts of some kind that will withstand the ravages of time and be technologically available in the year 2114.
Katie Paterson said: “I am overjoyed that Sjón is the third writer to contribute to Future Library. He is a visionary author. Sjón creates a world of metamorphosis: his poetic works weave together history and myth, folklore, ancient storytelling, the surreal and the magical, through the language of past and contemporary Icelandic. His writing is dynamic and melodic, and like Future Library, interlaces the human and natural world through stretches of time. In addition to writing poems, novels, plays, librettos, lyrics, and children’s books, Sjón often collaborates with other artists and musicians, so I am very excited about the possibilities his contribution will bring to this hidden library growing through the trees.”
Sjón likened the project to "a game played on the grandest of scales". He said: "It wasn’t until I was invited to contribute to it — and had gladly accepted to do so — that I started to understand the depth of its challenge. Like the best of games the Future Library makes the player aware of the skills and flaws he or she brings to the playing field, in this case it tests the fundaments of everything an author must deal with when sincerely engaging with the art of writing: Am I a writer of my times? Who do I write for? How much does the response of the reader matter to me? What in a text makes it timeless? And for some of us it poses the hardest question of all: Will there be people in the future who understand the language I write in? It is a game I look forward to play with enthusiasm and earnestness.”
Sjón, who is also president of the Icelandic PEN Centre, won the Nordic Council's Literary Prize for his novel The Blue Fox (Telegram) and was shortlisted for both the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for From The Mouth Of The Whale (Telegram). Moonstone – The Boy Who Never Was (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) won the 2013 Icelandic Literary Prize. Sceptre publishes the paperback of Moonstone on 9th Feb 2017.
Sjón will hand over his manuscript at a special ceremony in the Norwegian forest in June 2017.