Dagnija Liepaitē was a completely unplanned character in The Twelfth Time, my Russian novel sequel. Secondary antagonist Anastasiya finds herself pregnant after a drunken one-night stand with a stranger in Paris during her first fashion show abroad, and she needs a lot of assistance to run her salon while she’s away on her pretended sick leave. In comes 21-year-old Dagnija, who immigrated from the coastal city of Saulkrasti, Latvia in 1920. Dagnija is one of the new seamstresses, and impresses Anastasiya so much she’s invited to be the second in command.
One fateful day when she’s staying late after work, she picks up the phone and overhears Anastasiya talking to her secret son’s pediatrician. Dagnija knows exactly how to play her cards from here, and becomes the alternate designer and even more powerful. She has Anastasiya eating out of the palm of her hand, and knows exactly what to say to her and how to work her. Anastasiya has no choice but to grin and bear it if she wants the secret of her unwed motherhood to stay as under wraps as possible. I just love Dagnija, since she’s so fun to write, and her interactions with Anastasiya practically write themselves.
The last line of Chapter 20 of The Twelfth Time ends “Now, the deceiver lays at the mercy of the deceived.” It’s inspired by the final line of a Decameron story, “And thus it was that the deceiver lay at the mercy of the deceived.”
Dagnija’s surname in The Twelfth Time is Liepaitē, since she’s unmarried. In Journey Through a Dark Forest, the third book, her surname has become Liepienē, since she’s now married. Latvian women’s surnames take different endings depending upon their marital status, though men’s names typically have only one form. The masculine form of her surname is Liepiņš.
It’s most common, as casual observers can quickly figure out, for Latvian surnames to end in -s, -is, and -š. Sometimes a name will end in -us or -o.
Patronymics and direct address:
Latvians historically haven’t used patronymics, but during the periods of Russian and Soviet occupation, they had no choice but to legally adopt patronymics. In addition to this, their names were also forcibly Russified. The same thing happened under German domination, only minus the patronymics. Nowadays, names are reverting back to their true Latvian roots.
The vocative case is used when directly addressing someone; e.g., Jānis becomes Jāni.
Latvian uses a Roman alphabet, but like many other Eastern European languages, it too uses characters the average English-speaker isn’t used to. They’ve got bars over their As, Es, Is, and Us, a Ž (ZH), Š (SH), Ņ (similar to the Spanish Ñ and Italian GN), Ģ, Č (CH), Ķ, and Ļ. It’s a Baltic language, closely related but not identical to Lithuanian.
Common Latvian names:
Margarita, Margita, Margrieta
Marija (Marika, Marita)
Rota, Rūta (Rudīte)
Terēza, Terēze, Terēzija
Fricis, Frīdrihs (Frederick)
Georgijs, Georgs, Juris, Jurģis
Ludis, Ludvigs (Louis, Ludwig) (Dagnija’s husband)
Matejs, Matīss (Matthew)
Mihails, Miķelis, Mihaels
Pāvils, Paulis, Pauls, Pāvels
Voldemārs, Valdemārs (Valdis)