Books: Abdul v. Ivan

THE SABRES OF PARADISE (495 pp.)—Lesley Blanch—Viking ($6.75).

This book's heroes all seem to be sixfoot-three, thundering horsemen, invincible sword fighters and high-bouncing lovers; if the story were fiction, critics could complain that the earth does not breed such men. But Author Lesley Blanch has discovered an episode—Russia's efforts to subdue the Caucasian mountain tribes during the first half of the 19th century —which abounds in authentic hell-and-crinoline raisers, and she describes it with enormous relish. Not much romanticizing is necessary; the source material is generally incandescent.

There is, for instance, this recollection of a Russian officer who helped sack an aoul, or...

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