In 2114 trees in Oslo's Nordmarka forest will be cut down and turned into paper on which manuscripts will be published. Picture: LORELYN MEDINA/123RF
In 2114 trees in Oslo's Nordmarka forest will be cut down and turned into paper on which manuscripts will be published. Picture: LORELYN MEDINA/123RF

In the Nordmarka forest in Oslo there are 1,000 spruce trees. Since they were planted in 2014, they have been doing what all trees are supposed to do – slowly taking root, reaching up to the sky, photosynthesising and so on. But unlike many other trees, the fate of those 1,000 spruces is known and the date of their end is predestined.

The trees that make up the forest within the forest are part of a “living, organic artwork unfolding over 100 years”, created by Scottish artist Katie Paterson and known as the Future Library. In 2114 the spruce trees will be cut down and turned into paper on which manuscripts contributed by authors including Margaret Atwood, David Mitchell and Elif Shafak will be published.

This week it was announced that the latest author to join those who will contribute works they won’t be around to see published is Norway’s own Karl Ove Knausgaard. Knausgaard is most well known as author of the critically acclaimed and popular six-volume autobiographical series of novels My Struggle.

For a writer who has made his name on the rigorous observation of the minutiae of everyday life in an epic novel that runs to almost 4,000 pages, a forest of trees growing for a century before they’re ready to be turned into the paper that will accommodate his unrevealed future manuscript is a perfect meeting of content and form.

Knausgaard will formally deliver his manuscript on May 23 2020 to a specially designed room in Oslo’s Deichman library, which will hold the Future Library manuscripts. While neither he nor his legions of literary admirers will be around to see the published results, the author said if he “wanted to write now about the people who surround me … you should think it would be possible to push the limit of honesty 100% because they won’t read it. But there’s no difference, really. You have the same obligations.”