An old-fashioned or is that new novel, Arabesque spins silky strands of love and loves lost, gliding over the parqueted floors of elegant houses in the world between wars. For the most part it is stationed with Julian Crest, British Foreign Service diplomat, his wife Joanna and their two children in Bucharest, and even though Julian is already known as ""the Bolshevik in the Chancery,"" life goes relatively well. Their friends--who have more tangential involvements--include an old homosexual and the younger twins Nicolai and Lucrece whose ""total oneness"" leads to tragedy. But then Julian and Joanna don't get off that easily by the close: Julian has the accident which leaves him in the too attentive hands of their German governess whom Joanna thought of as a friend (Joanna is really pretty innocent) and is finally altogether out of it. Fortunately for Joanna she has met the scholar-writer Keres who after one ""perfect night"" enables her to go on hoping for that delayed perfect forever. Apparently many people have said irreconcilable things about this book comparing it to Lawrence Durrell and John Fowles, finding it both ""kinky"" and ""sensuous,"" hoping that it will be ""commercial"" and ""literary."" At best there's a filmy sentimentality and if it sticks to your hands, well there's sure to be a fingerbowl as well as that champagne goblet.