From the irrepressible Czech writer Hrabal (I Served the King of England, 1989; Too Loud a Solitude, 1990) comes this pocket-sized, single-sitting love-letter to a world--and to a life--gone by. Readers of The Little Town Where Time Stood Still (1993) will recognize the speaker here (though unnamed) as the same life-loving and mischievous Uncle Pepin who, in that novel, ""went to visit my brother for two weeks and stayed for thirty years."" This time around, Uncle Pepin--""pushing seventy""--delivers a monologue to a group of ""young ladies,"" a certain type of ""beauties"" with whom the monologuist has had many an acquaintance over the years. So what's he telling them now, as he looks all the way back to ""the days of the monarchy"" under the Hapsburgs? In good part, no more than bragging about his own high old exploits in the fields of romance, the military, and drink. But there's another side to it, too, the book being also a kind of advice-manual: ""...what I'm giving you now, young ladies, are like windows on the world, points, goals, scores,"" he says near the start, going on to cite not only from memory (""what a memory I have!"") but also from ""Mr. Batista's book on sexual hygiene"" and from ""Anna Novkov's dream book."" All three sources are unceasingly wonderful and rich as the young girls learn, among much else, that ""if you dreamed someone was pouring cucumbers over your head...it meant ardent love,"" and that even though the old days were often brutal, ""yet somehow people sang more."" A short little book in a single long paragraph that holds the charm, gusto, and nostalgia of several lifetimes. Asks the speaker, ""the world is a beautiful place, don't you think?"" No reader will demur.