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Pick of the paperbacks; A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, by Eric Newby. New York: Penguin Books. $4.95.

Those who enjoy British understatement and humor will enjoy Eric Newby's tale of how he and his companion undertook a mountaineering exploit high up in the rocky wilderness of northeastern Afghanistan.

Nuristan was their goal -- a remote, almost impenetrable, corner of Afghanistan. It was indeed a feat of endurance, which Newby relates in an amusing self-disparaging manner. Some of the situations he describes would be out of place as topics for polite dinner-table conversation. But in their context, they are at least understandable.

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In his more serious moments the author gives us some beautifully written passages describing the valleys and gor ges of the Hindu Kush.