The Sins Of Childhood ($42.95; paper $14.95; Jan. 1997; 250 pp.; 0-8101-1274-4; paper 0-8101-1462-3): This first English-language collection of short fiction by the great, neglected Polish writer (18471912) known as the ``Chekhov of Poland'' offers 12 irresistible stories, most of which are limpid, lyrical pictures of village life rather similar to the (also neglected) short fiction of Russia's Ivan Bunin. Prus has an avuncular and seductive narrative voice, both proverbial and gossipy, that resonates with unpretentious authority. A few stories (such as ``The Waistcoat'') are only anecdotes, but in the delightful tale of a toddler's brief disappearance and its effect on his family and neighbors (``Sta's Little Adventure''), the chronicle of a handsome peasant's unexpected fulfillment (``Antek''), and especially in the superb title piece--which traces the moral and intellectual growth, against all odds, of a disadvantaged boy growing up on an aristocratic manor-- Prus proves himself one of the most attractive and accomplished storytellers of his time. . . .