Like Khrushchev, Ilya Ehrenburg was a staunch Stalinist who survived the Stalinist terror; now at 80, after performing a party-line laureate, spewing forth social realist novels and agit prop reportage, he's spearheading- volte face and Lenin knows for what reasons- the deStalinization of culture. Thus the background for these random and recent essays, and thus, undoubtedly, the interest in them over here. For while the comrade's concern for a return to and a reintegration of Russian and European pre-revolutionary humanism with the current post-revolutionary brand is markedly heart-felt, it's also- by Western standards, at least- rather dated: warm words, slow-as-olasses scholarship and beautiful banalities (""In the age of the earth's sputniks, let talk about the sputniks of the human heart""), as often as not make up the critical anon. Enjoyment and exhortation are the keynotes; the Ehrenburg tributes to Chekhov, the French Impressionists, Picasso, Eluard and Stendhal (and here it's amusing to watch now that hussar of the romantic ego and elitism is turned into a masses-minded moralist), are all fervently, almost feverishly illumined by the old biographical/historical method of presentation and a favored quotation popping out of every paragraph. He also rehabilitates the reputations of two nationals: poetess Tsvetayeva, who hung herself in 2, and poet Slutsky, who's still around- at last count, anyway. A grandfatherly performance; at its best, wisely-tempered and tender.