David Mitchell Wrote a Book That You Will Never Be Able to Read


You may or may not have heard of the Future Library Project: it was founded by artist Katie Paterson, and involves writers in an experiment wherein they write books will not be read until 2114. That’s not to say that the books will simply be printed and placed in a time capsule; all books will only be printed in 2114 on paper made from trees that were planted specifically for the project. (They were planted in Oslo in 2014.) The first author to join the cause was the legendary Margaret Atwood. Now, another has answered the call: Cloud Atlas author David Mitchell.

As reported in The Guardian, Mitchell recently finished his FLP book — called, tentatively, From Me Flows What You Call Time — on a Tuesday morning just before flying to Norway. Why the mention of the flight to Norway, one might ask? Well, when each author finishes his or her book, they travel to the forest full of trees whose paperized pulp will later carry their words. Once there, they perform a kind of sacrificial ceremony — though hopefully not one of fire, as that would guarantee that not only you or I will never read it, but nor would anyone in the future. Tragedy!

In that same piece at The Guardian, Mitchell spells out the futurist appeal of the Future Library Project:

“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, and readers, and civilization.”

It’s worth noting that the FLP isn’t the only project of this kind. Somewhat less altruistically, John Malkovich recently partnered with a cognac brand to create a film that will not be seen for 100 years, an idea that, I guess, pairs well with the fact that said cognac is aged 100 years before being sold. (Will a thumb-drive containing the film be aged in a wood barrel?)

Optimism is a nice surprise in this hectic news cycle, but allow for a moment some cynicism to creep in: will human beings forgive Mitchell for the film version of Cloud Atlas by 2114, or will they simply skip over his FLP entry because of the egregious whitewashing of that film? Will race even exist in 2114? So many questions, and only one answer: nobody who reads this post will ever read this book.