Erudition and wit characterize these travels into the past with an Italian publisher, writer, gourmand, and lover of women. In free-form essays, Buzzi holds forth on subjects as diverse as the flavors of Russian vodka (there are many); the madness of Joan of Aragon, whose bosom smelled fragrantly of ripe peaches; and Chekhov's endearments for his wife, Olga, which included such notables as ""my little cockroach"" and ""my little bitch."" He captures the sights and smells of pre-revolutionary Russia, the turn of a beautiful foot being held up for the admiration of all at a restaurant in Djakarta, the labyrinth of the underground public toilets in Lipari, an island off the coast of Sicily. Buzzi brings a breadth of knowledge to these moments that is reminiscent of Nabokov, to whom he makes occasional obeisance. And he has fine comic timing, as when he remarks casually that ""consumption was the [Russian] national disease"" or explains, without apology, that for gastronomes ""the word 'pepper' must always be preceded by 'freshly ground.' But we must admit that there also exists pepper ground some time ago."" And nobody who reads Buzzi's subtly understated description of the Sun King's tooth extraction will be likely to forget it. (It seems that, having also lost part of his majestic palate, ""during meals bits of food often came out of his nose, which etiquette did not permit his fellow diners to notice."") Buzzi's writings are as diffuse as they are charming, and shorter than the reader, once engaged, would like. Hopefully, this volume will represent but one of many of his writings to become available in English translation.