Exotic places; Afghanistan: Paradise Lost, by Roland and Sabrina Michaud. New York: The Vendome Press. $45.

The Russians, for all their tanks and armored helicopters, are finding it hard to crush the proud Afghan spirit. But for the time being they have certainly smashed the simple tranquillity of the Afghans' ancient cultures.

This book is a celebration in word (14 pages of text) and picture (98 stark and stunning color photos) of this rugged land as it was before the Soviets' modern weaponry rolled in.

The authors spent some 14 years in Afghanistan before last December's invasion. But this is no comprehensive sociologist's study nor copious reference work. Rather it is a cry from the heart, an attempt to recapture that unconquerable spirit that defied Genghis Khan ad the British Empire.

Text and lens swing from the sand-buried ruins of Shar-i-Gholghola ("City of Lamentations") to the highest crags of the Hindu Kush, from the teahouses of Herat to the deeply etched face of a dervish in Mazar-i-Sharaf. They breathe vitality into a hard but serene way of life now fighting for survival.

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