Rabindranath Tagore often saw in his mind’s eye his writings turn into dust ‘under the wheels of time’, as he put it in 1939. When he was barely thirty-five years of age and a rather obscure poet he wrote a poem addressing his readers a century later: ‘A hundred years from now/ I wonder who you are reading this poem of mine’ (1895). But over the years, as his fame grew he became sceptical of that fame. How soon would it be, he asked himself, gnawed into nothingness by ‘the ocean-waves of time’? (1940). How long can his works escape ‘the remorseless hunger of the dust’? And yet, as an author devoted to his craft, he invested a huge lot of time and energy to print and preserve and edit his writings as best as he could and in 1939 a consolidated authorized edition of his works began to be published by the institution he created, the Visva-Bharati. Tagore wrote a long essay by way of introducing that edition. ‘My life is approaching its end. I consider it my duty at this terminal point to put together those of my writings which I think have attained a measure of literary value and to discard the rest.’ He went on to say that in his judgement a good deal of his writings were not fit to be selected for inclusion in the collections which began to be issued in 1939. Many of his early publications, he said, were of interest only from the historical point of view, they were not necessarily of value as literature. ‘What History collects may be forgettable from the Literary point of view.’
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