Made-up Latvians as hoteliers, bar owners, acrobats... and mice!

Latvian characters are fairly common in world literature in cinema, and not only as Eastern European gangsters in second-rate crime flicks. They're also lawyers, dentists, hoteliers, bar owners, acrobats... and mice. Latvian American Rihards Kalniņš has been chronicling profiles of made up Latvians at Imaginarylatvians.com, reported Latvian Radio on February 4.

Kalniņš is a Latvian American living in Latvia for 13 years already and working at the IT company Tilde. Literature is a passion of his, and it was the written word that lead him to create the Imaginary Latvians website.

"I've always been interested in following the way Latvians are portrayed in the world. It has always been interesting to me to read and encounter a Latvian there. I wanted to collect it all in one place," he told Latvian Radio.

"I think, at least in the 90s it was often thought that all Latvian characters, for example, in film, are without fail bad boys or gangsters. With this project I want to show it's not the case," he said.

The website features fragments from 115 works, but there surely are more, says Kalniņš.

Most of the fictional Latvians on the website come from literature, but the number of Latvian roles from films and TV series is growing as well.

One of the newest TV programs featuring Latvians is the acclaimed series 'Young Pope' with Jude Law. The pope, portrayed by Law, summons one 'cardinal Ozoliņš' and says he doesn't want to see him anymore. The series also features music by Latvian composer Pēteris Vasks.

The website also testifies to imaginary Latvian encounters in the works of Balzac and Nabokov, while one movie features Elizabeth Taylor as a Latvian heroine.

While a character in Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent, titled 'Imaginary Latvian Distinguished-Looking Gentleman' on the website, has quite some trouble actually speaking Latvian

Kalniņš thinks that the website shows that the Latvian name isn't only used for gloomy characters and there is no lack of colorful personas as well.

Have you encountered a made-up Latvian? Tell it to Imaginary Latvians on Facebook.

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