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Compelling spring reading; Hope for the third world Villages, by Richard Critchfield. Garden City, New York: Anchor/Doubleday. 388 pp. $10.95.

Richard Critchfield was a correspondent in Vietnam for the Washington Star. His writings about village life in the third world, including much in The Christian Science Monitor, have been a beacon of enlightenment to those who would like to understand this essential stratum of society.

Critchfield has spent long months at a time in villages in Java, Egypt, Mexico, and Bangladesh, among other locations. He lives with the people, works with them, talks with them, and keeps copious records of their words, their concerns, their hopes.

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Village life can be earthy, and there is sometimes graphic description of drunkenness and drug addiction through which some of the most desperate try to shut out the world.

But the hope that Critchfield sees is that the world - particularly the world of Western technology - cannot be shut out. His story is of remarkably increased production from the new miracle wheat and rice grains developed by Western scientists. He indicates that although much has been done, much remains to be done.

Village life is the key to the third world's future, according to Critchfield , in this important volume about the world's critical, and underreported, millions.

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