Before encountering Anna Pavlovna Scherer—the first of literally hundreds of characters—it's helpful to understand that traditional three-part Russian names can have masculine or feminine endings; this explains siblings with different last names. If the system makes you dizzy, take a shortcut—read just first names. Bear in mind that Russians are fond of nicknames. Thus Piotr = Petya; ditto Natalia, Natasha. Rule of thumb: When you're wondering, "Is this the same person?" the answer is yes.
In Search of Lost Time: 4,000 pages--aaagh! War and Peace: hundreds of Russian names! Moby-Dick: guy obsessed with a whale--so unlikely. Here's advice on how to tackle a tough book from three accomplished professors.
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