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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

November 24, 1996|Susan Heeger

THE POST OFFICE by Rabindranath Tagore (St. Martin's Press: $12.95, 54 pp.). In the window of a room overlooking a busy street leans a young invalid, Amal, too sick to go out but longing for adventure. A peddler passes, a watchman, a flower girl--each lingering with Amal a while, touched by his simple interest in their lives. And Amal finds other amusements. Behind his house is the raja's royal post office. During his endless day, Amal develops the feverish idea that the raja will send him a letter, a belief that finally banishes his restlessness.

In fact, the point of this swift, sweet allegorical play--a mere 50 pages long--is that the yearning soul can't be free until its dream of pleasure becomes an urge for spiritual release. Written in 1911 by one of India's Nobel Prize laureates in a moment of great personal suffering, "The Post Office" was lauded by Yeats and read on French radio as the Nazis took Paris. It was also performed in the Warsaw ghetto by children who later died at Auschwitz. Full of colorful characters--the philosophy-spouting doctor, the huff-puffing village headman, the irreverent fakir--the play appears now in a new version featuring eloquent woodcuts by Michael McCurdy and a magic undiminished by time.

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