On my last day in Saratov I had met a young woman who had a flat in Marx. She had invited me to stay there, “in the unlikely event that you ever come back.” Anna was a local journalist and she had championed the cause of a homeland for Russia’s Germans. We met briefly, in the offices of the city’s only liberal newspaper, where she worked. A tall, gangling young woman, she moved awkwardly, as if her clothes were lined with prickles. Her lively, boyish face was framed by a tonsure of dark hair. She appraised me guardedly from a pair of large brown eyes whose whites were tinged with blue. They sparkled with intelligence. Over meatballs in the paper’s canteen—which poisoned me for a week—she said something intriguing: “I should warn you—do you remember what happened when Gerald Durrell freed the animals in his zoo? He opened their cages and they wouldn’t leave—just sat there and howled. They refused to go back to the jungle and start hunting for food again. Well, that’s us—that’s what we’re like in Marx.” I laughed. But she was not smiling.