When volume 1 of Mark Twain’s autobiography was released in 2010, I remember thinking that it was incredible that Twain could speak from the grave in a fresh way, that the people of his day were never able to read is autobiography, and that we were the generation he meant to have it. It was a sort of, “take that 19th [and part of the 20th] century” moment.
Then Margaret Atwood announced that she, like other authors, will be contributing to the Future Library project, which will wait a century before it publishes their work. And then I thought: What the? But we should get to read this stuff!
It is a fascinating project and I imagine it would be hard to say no. As she told the Guardian:
“It is the kind of thing you either immediately say yes or no to. You don’t think about it for very long,” said Atwood, speaking from Copenhagen. “I think it goes right back to that phase of our childhood when we used to bury little things in the backyard, hoping that someone would dig them up, long in the future, and say, ‘How interesting, this rusty old piece of tin, this little sack of marbles is. I wonder who put it there?'”
This led me to wonder: what would I write for the future if I was ever asked by the Future Library project? I wasn’t asked , but you know, whatever; I’m not offended or anything.
Still, if I was writing for the future, and let’s say it was nonfiction, would I be free (as Twain believed he was) to write openly? In my new book on academic freedom in religious higher education (Consider No Evil), for example, the first chapter is autobiographical and I know I self-edited. I know that if it was for the future only, I would likely have said more.
So what would you say to the future? Would it be fiction or nonfiction? Should you just say it now?