Fiction | January 05, 2015

For the Russian community of Berlin in the late summer and fall of 1927, Nikitin’s name was on many people’s lips. “Have you heard him?’ they’d ask each other. “Have you listened to his songs?” At first, only a few recognized the name, since, upon his arrival from somewhere in the east, he played only in small, dingy clubs like The Steppes and The Three Crows. I knew those places: they were dark, smoke-filled caves where bored waiters passed among tables illuminated by flickering votive lights, each table an island where the shipwrecked inhabitants, almost exclusively male, huddled over glasses of cheap vodka and talked at each other, oblivious to the presence of their listeners, in fact, oblivious to everything but the sound of their own voices telling their stories of broken hearts and lost opportunities.

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