Leo Tolstoy: The Kreutzer Sonata and Other Stories, translated by David McDuff; Fyodor Dostoyevsky: The House of the Dead, translated by David McDuff; Fyodor Dostoyevsky: Netochka Nezvanova, translated by Jane Kentish; Anton Chekhov: The Party and Other Stories, translated by Ronald Wilks (Penguin, the first $2.95, the others $3.95). Penguin Classics have adopted a new design -- yellowish cover stock, a black title banner, a muted painting -- and a color coded band (yellow for modern literature, purple for classics). As might be expected, the result is a handsome, yet not shockingly different look for this venerable paperback line. Among the newest reissues are these four Russian books: in the first Tolstoy presents one of literature's most chilling and dazzling portraits of a marriage; the two Dostoevskys are early novels, the second a harrowing visit to a Siberian prison camp; and the last volume provides evidence -- if it is needed -- that Chekhov knew more about the human heart than just about anyone.
Love Out of Season, and Rumors of Peace, both by Ella Leffland (Harper & Row, $7.95). These two novels by an accomplished writer of fiction explore the terrain of human love and frailty. In the first, two totally unsuited people fall in love, against the crazy back-drop of late-'60s San Francisco. The second relates the coming of age of a young girl during World War II.
The Letters of Vita Sackville-West to Virginia Woolf, edited by Louise De Salvo and Mitchell Leaska (William Morrow/Quill, $8.95). Although an over-grazed field, Bloomsbury still seems able to yield major documents to willing scholars. Devotees of Bloomsburyana will recognize that this collection is indeed of major interest, a fascinating complement to the monumental Letters of Virginia Woolf, published in 5 volumes in the late '70s (extracts from which are usefully included here). Vita Sackville-West was Woolf's intimate friend for nearly 20 years and the subject of that literary curiosity, Orlando. Despite frequent lapses into coyness or mush, the letters of both women are marvelously full of life. As Vita wrote in 1929, "I watch the beetles -- winged, black splotched with red, -- at their amours on hot slopes here, and would like to enclose one of them. But it would get squashed in the post. So I just send you my love, unsquashable."
Lord Mountbatten: The Last Viceroy, by David Butler (Pocket Books, $3.95). As the king-emperor's cousin and a war hero, Earl Mountbatten of Burma brought enormous reservoirs of self-confidence and decisiveness to the government of India, qualities not possessed by a shaken Raj. This is the dramatic and fabulous story of how he and his wealthy and beautiful countess and vicereine, Edwina, presided over the partition and dissolution of Britain's Indian Empire -- just in time of course for the debut of the PBS Masterpiece Theatre series of the same title.
The Abandonment of the Jews: America and the Holocaust, 1941-1945, by David S. Wyman (Pantheon, $8.95). How an indifferent American government, unconcerned Christians and unalarmed Jews let slip the opportunities to save at least several hundred thousand of the 5 to 6 million Jews who perished in the Nazi death camps.
Monte Cassino, by David Hapgood and David Richardson (Berkley, $3.95). Founded in 529 by St. Benedict, the Abbey of Monte Cassino stood for 14 centuries as the founding house of the Benedictine Order. Its library was a treasure house of medieval treasures, preserved since the Dark Ages by the scholar monks. Unfortunately, it dominated the highway to Rome from the south; and in 1943 Monte Cassino was seized by the German Army as a stronghold to block the Allied advance on the Eternal City. So the Allied high command thought, anyway, and so the abbey was bombed to smithereens. What really happened, and why, at Monte Cassino is the subject of this vividly written history.
Into China's Heart: An Emigr,e's Journey Along the Yellow River by Lynn Pan (Weatherhill, $17.50). Lynn Pan was born in Shanghai but has lived most of her life in the West (she studied at Cambridge, among other places). In this elegantly written travelogue, she journeys along the Yellow River in search of China "in all its diversity." The book combines glimpses into exotic Chinese mores (dancing is considered lewd, even the waltz) with astute sociological observation. "The Chinese don't . . . have much of that sense of lost time which I believe is basic to the valuing of history," she writes. "For one thing they are a people too old to care: in China one is often assailed by a sense of the past stretching and stretching, with its vigor lost somewhere ag the way, and its truths too old to be remembered and revealed." Above all she writes eloquently of the Chinese landscape, especially the Yellow, "the muddiest river in the world."
Irish Musicians, American Friends, by Terence Winch (Coffee House Press, P.O. Box 10870, Minneapolis, Minn. 55440, $8.95). Beautiful, simple, often heartbreaking poems about the big-city Irish, by a son of immigrants. Winch, a Washington poet, undeniably has the gift -- a blend of the two James, Joyce and Farrell. Here is "The Lone Ranger": "Last I heard of Jerry Cooney/ he was in O'Grady's/ he was telling someone something/ about the Lone Ranger/ his brother Jimmy was a priest/ Jerry played the sax/ in the late sixties he was still/ living in the old neighborhood/ which was a dangerous thing to do/ he was a real sweet guy/ and looked a little like Jiggs in the/ funnies."