1207 – Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī (sometimes called, simply, Rumi), Persian philosopher, poet, scholar, theologian, and mystic; most of his works were written in Persian, but he also sometimes wrote in Turkish, Arabic, and Greek; his Masnavi, an expensive poem that is sometimes called “the Quran in Persian,” is considered one of the greatest poems of the Persian language.
1594 – Antoine Girard de Saint-Amant, French poet who wrote burlesque poems and Bacchanalian songs, but who in later life devoted himself to more serious subjects and produced an epic, Moyse sauvé.
1700 – Stanisław Konarski (born Hieronim Konarski), Polish poet, writer, playwright, pedagogue, political writer, and educational reformer who founded the first public reference library on the European mainland.
1769 – Vladislav Aleksandrovich Ozerov, Russian dramatist who was the most popular Russian playwright of the early 19th century; his tragedies were written “in the stilted and sentimental manner of the Frenchified era,” according to writer Vladimir Nabokov, but they garnered tremendous success, largely owing to the remarkable acting of one of the greatest Russian tragediennes, Ekaterina Semyonova. When Ozerov’s final play, Polyxena, flopped, he fled St. Petersburg for his country estate, where he reportedly went mad and burned all his papers; his final years were spent in poverty, and his posthumous reputation was damaged by poet Alexander Pushkin’s dismissal of his plays as “very mediocre.”
1833 – Ferdinand Ludwig Adam von Saar, Austrian novelist, playwright, and poet who was one of Austria’s most important German-language realistic writers of his time.
1837 – Shardha Ram Phillauri, Indian Hindu missionary, social reformer, and writer who has been called the “father of modern Punjabi prose.”
1847 – Wilhelmina Drucker, Dutch feminist writer, magazine founder, politician, and activist who also wrote under the pseudonyms Gipsy, Gitano, and E. Prezcier.
1861 – Sofía Casanova (full name Sofía Guadalupe Pérez Casanova de Lutoslawski), Spanish poet, novelist, and journalist who was the first Spanish woman to become a permanent correspondent in a foreign country and a war correspondent; in her work she highlighted the human aspect of the events she chronicled, reporting in Poland and Russia on the suffering of the civilian population during wartime.
1875 – Olivia Rossetti Agresti, British activist, author, editor, publisher, memoirist, and interpreter who had an important friendship and correspondence with writer Ezra Pound, who mentions her twice in his Cantos. A member of one of England’s most prominent artistic and literary families, she was the daughter of writer William Michael Rossetti, who was a founding member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and Lucy Madox Brown Rossetti, an artist and writer; she was also the niece of poet Christina Rossetti and poet and painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and a first cousin of novelist Ford Madox Ford.
1889 – Giani Hira Singh Dard, Indian Punjabi journalist, author, poet, and revolutionary who wrote on religious and patriotic themes but also expressed his revolt against social evils; he sometimes wrote under the pen name Dard.
1889 – Suzanne Renaud, French writer, poet, linguist, and translator.
1892 – Ludwika Savitskaya (pen name Zoska Veras), Ukrainian-born Belarusian writer, poet, translator, short-story writer, essayist, children’s writer, magazine editor, and painter.
1898 – Edgar Parin d’Aulaire, three-time Caldecott Medal-winning German-born Swiss and American author and illustrator of historically themed children’s books, who worked as a team with his wife Ingri; they helped shape the Golden Age of picture books in mid-twentieth-century America.
1900 – Flora Garry, Scottish poet who mostly wrote in the Scots dialect of Aberdeenshire and played an important role in validating the literary use of Scots.
1906 – J.I.M. Stewart (full name John Innes Mackintosh Stewart), Scottish novelist, short-story writer, mystery writer, literary critic, autobiographer, nonfiction writer, and academic; under the name Michael Innes, he also wrote crime novels, and is best known for those featuring the character Sir John Appleby.
1915 – Gloria Alcorta, Argentine writer, poet, and sculptor.
1920 – Eileen Chang, influential modern Chinese writer whose fiction deals with tensions between women and men in love, and who is well-known for her portrayal of everyday life in 1940s Shanghai and Japanese-occupied Hong Kong; Ang Lee directed a film adaptation of her novella Lust, Caution.
1924 – Truman Capote, award-winning American novelist, short-story writer, playwright, essayist, and nonfiction author who wrote several modern classics, including the novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s and the true crime book In Cold Blood, which he labeled a “nonfiction novel”; his works have been adapted into more than 20 films and television dramas. His childhood friend Harper Lee, who grew up to write the classic To Kill a Mockingbird, based the character of Dill on Capote; she also helped with research and editing for In Cold Blood.
1927 – W.S. Merwin, Pulitzer Prize-winning and National Book Award-winning American poet, playwright, and prose writer who served as U.S. Poet Laureate; he is known for his poetry about the Vietnam War but has also written on mythological or legendary themes, and many of his poems featured animals and autobiographical elements.
1928 – Elie Wiesel, Nobel Prize-winning Romanian-born Jewish-American novelist, nonfiction writer, professor, political activist, journalist, and Holocaust survivor who wrote dozens of books including his most well-known, Night, based on his experiences in the concentration camps. Much of his work was about the Holocaust.
1929 – Carol Elizabeth Fenner, award-winning American author of books for children and young adults.
1929- Nivaria Tejera, award-winning Cuban poet, writer, and novelist.
1931 – Nil Hilevich, Belarusian poet, children’s writer, folklorist, literary scholar, translator, professor, and politician.
1935 – Shamsur Rahman Faruqi, Indian writer, poet, scholar, historian, critic, editor, and novelist who is credited with the revival of Urdu literature; he died of covid-19 in December 2020.
1937 – Jurek Becker, Polish-born German writer, screenwriter, and dissident; his most famous work is Jacob the Liar, which has been made into two different movies.
1937 – Steinbjørn Berghamar Jacobsen, Faroese poet, short-story writer, playwright, novelist, and teacher who was best known as a children’s writer.
1942 – Francesco Tullio Altan, Italian comics artist and satirist.
1943 – Rauni Magga Lukkari, Finnish poet, author, and translator who writes in the Northern Sami language.
1945 – Emna Belhadj Yahia, Tunisian writer, philosopher, teacher, and activist for feminism and human rights; after the Tunisian Revolution of 2011, the rise of conservative religious parties and the erosion of women’s freedoms prompted her to formalize her thoughts in a book, Tunisie, Questions à Mon Pays (Tunisia, Questions to My Country).
1950 – Laura Esquivel, Mexican novelist, screenwriter, essayist, and politician who is best known for her bestselling first novel, Like Water for Chocolate, which was adapted for film; she has written magic realism, science fiction, historical fiction, and contemporary realistic fiction.
1953 – S.M. Stirling, French-born Canadian-American author of science fiction and fantasy novels; he is best known for his alternate history novels, including the Draka series and the Nantucket series.
1960 – Nicola Griffith, World Fantasy and Nebula Award-winning British science-fiction novelist, short-story writer, editor, and nonfiction author.
1961 – Jordie Albiston, award-winning Australian writer, poet, essayist, editor, and academic; she has an ongoing preoccupation with mathematical constructs and constraints and the possibilities offered in terms of poetic structure.
1964 – Margie Orford, South African journalist, film director, and author who is best known for her crime novels featuring the character Clare Hart.
1967 – Edwin M. Cordevilla, Filipino poet, nonfiction writer, and journalist.
1968 – Gabriela Alemán, award-winning Brazilian-born Ecuadorian novelist, short-story writer, essayist, journalist, editor, radio scriptwriter, and professional basketball player.
1968 – Theodora Goss, award-winning Hungarian-born American novelist, short-story writer, poet, and fantasy writer.
1975 – Ta-Nehisi Coates, National Book Award-winning American author, journalist, comic-book writer, and educator who writes about cultural, social, racial, and political issues.
1981 – Cecelia Ahern, Irish novelist and short-story writer who also created and produced the ABC comedy Samantha Who?
1985 – Téa Obreht, award-winning Serbian-American novelist, essayist, and short-story writer; she was a National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” honoree and was named by The New Yorker as one of the twenty best American fiction writers under forty.