ALL the men of our circle: brokers, shopkeepers, employees of banks and shipping companies, had their chil- dren take music lessons. It was a regular mania. Our fathers in their impotent longing for success had invented a lottery pool. But this gamble had children for its stakes. More than other cities, Odessa had been afflicted with the craze. In the course of a dozen years, our city had supplied the con- cert halls of the entire world with child prodigies. Both Mischa Elman and Gabrilovitch came from Odessa, and it was there that Jascha Heifetz made his debut. As soon as a boy reached the age of four or five, his mother would take the puny creature to see Zagoursky. Zagoursky had started a factory of child prodigies, a factory of Jewish dwarfs in lace collars and patent leather shoes. He dragged them from the bedbug-infested hovels of the Moldavanka, out of the stinking yards of the Old Market. Zagoursky taught them the elements of music. Then they were shipped to Professor Auer in Petersburg. A powerful harmony vibrated in the souls of these agonized brats with blue, puffed heads. They were to become famous vir- tuosos! And so my father, too, decided to run after Heifetz and Mischa Elman. I was almost fourteen and had already outstripped the age of child prodigies, but I was so small and delicate that I might easily pass for eight years old. And in that lay all our hope.
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