Racing Alone

by Nader Khalili. Harper & Row, $14.95. Mr. Khalili, a professional architect, returned to his native Iran with a seemingly mad ambition. He wanted to devise a form of building that would be comfortable, cheap, earthquake-proof, and composed of indigenous materials combined by indigenous skills. After years of experiments, frustrations, adventures in remote villages, and the revolution, he devised a building method that met all his requirements. He came up with a pottery house—a mud building fired to become one huge, hollow brick. The account of his proceedings would be interesting in any case, because his sophisticated employment of adobe can be usefully duplicated in places other than Iran, but since Mr. Khalili is an exceptionally graceful, even poetic, writer, his book is delightful as well as informative. It is, in fact, downright exciting.