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Africa: A Continent Revealed, by Rene Gordon. New York: St. Martin's Press. 280 pp. $40.

Two travelers journey through the Tugela River valley, in the heart of the Zulu country of South Africa. One is smitten by the timeless beauty of thatched beehive-shaped huts and women in dazzling beaded finery. The other is haunted by the appalling poverty of the area, the eroded gashes carved out of gentle hills, the lack of vegetation that forces goats to stand on their hind legs to graze from thorn-tree limbs.

Both travelers come back with vivid impressions; both, however, are sadly incomplete.

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Rene Gordon, compiler and editor of several books of photos and text on Africa, promises to avoid a similarly incomplete vision in this book of over 250 color photographs, most of them masterfully reproduced. And he does manage to convey much of the stirring beauty of this beloved continent.

The text, however, might well have been written for some other book. It keeps reminding us of the grave dangers posed by growing African populations and mounting pressures on the environment. Yet only a few of the pictures depict the ravaged lands, the refugee populations, and other serious challenges facing Africa.