January 20 Writer Birthdays

1562 – Ottavio Rinuccini, Italian poet and librettist; in collaborating with Jacopo Peri to produce the first opera, Dafne, he became the first opera librettist.

1719 – Jean-Jacques Barthélemy, French writer best known for his work The Travels of Anarchis the Younger in Greece.

1804 – Eugène Sue, French author whose novel Mathilde contains the first recorded use of the phrase, “Revenge is a dish best served cold.”

1806 – Nathaniel Parker Willis (also known as N. P. Willis), U.S. author, poet, and editor who worked with iconic American writers including Poe and Longfellow.

1823 – Imre Madách, Hungarian writer, poet, politician, lawyer, and playwright whose major work is The Tragedy of Man (Az ember tragédiája), a dramatic poem about 4,000 lines long, which elaborates on ideas comparable to Goethe’s Faust.

1848 – Alexander Kazbegi, Georgian actor, writer, poet, playwright, journalist, translator, and author who was best known for his novel The Patricide, about a heroic Caucasian bandit named Koba, who, much like Robin Hood, is a defender of the poor. Kazbegi’s work was an inspiration to Joseph Stalin, who used Koba as a revolutionary pseudonym.

1866 – Euclides da Cunha, Brazilian novelist, naturalist, writer, military personnel, poet, engineer, physicist, historian, zoologist, geologist, geographer, university teacher, journalist, sociologist, botanist, and philosopher.

1873 – Hōmei Iwano, Japanese writer, poet, translator, literary critic, and novelist who was especially known for his poetical dramas and autobiographical novels.

1873 – Johannes Vilhelm Jensen, Nobel Prize-winning Danish author who is regarded as one of the great Danish writers of the first half of 20th century “for the rare strength and fertility of his poetic imagination with which is combined an intellectual curiosity of wide scope and a bold, freshly creative style.” He was the brother of controversial feminist author Maria “Thit” Jensen.

1877 – Ștefan Petică, Romanian Symbolist poet, prose writer, playwright, author, journalist, and socialist activist.

1883 – Forrest Wilson, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. journalist, author, and Harriet Beecher Stowe biographer.

1885 – Ozaki Hosai (pen name of Ozaki Hideo), Japanese poet who was part of the birth of the modern free-verse haiku movement; his verses are permeated with loneliness, most likely a result of the isolation, poverty, and poor health of his final years.

1894 – Junzaburō Nishiwaki, Japanese writer, poet, translator, university teacher, literary critic, and linguist who specialized in modernism, Dadaism, and surrealism and was a seven-time Nobel Prize nominee; he was also an accomplished watercolor artist.

1896 – Kim Myeong-sun, North Korean-born South Korean novelist, poet, journalist, film actress, and autobiographer whose work was praised for her keen psychological portraits.

1908 – Jean S. Macleid, prolific British romance novelist who also wrote as Catherine Airlie.

1909 – Olive Fraser, award-winning Scottish poet; most of her work was published posthumously.

1910 – Joy Adamson (full name Friederike Victoria Joy Adamson, née Gessner), Austrian naturalist, artist and author whose book, Born Free, describes her experiences raising a lion cub named Elsa; Born Free was printed in several languages and was made into an Academy Award-winning movie of the same name.

1919 – Silva Kaputikyan, Armenian poet, writer, and political activist who was one of the best-known Armenian writers of the twentieth century, recognized as “the grand lady of twentieth century Armenian poetry; she was a member of the Communist Party and an advocate for Armenian nationalist causes. She wrote in both Armenian and Russian.

1921 – Sibnarayan Ray, Indian writer, poet, author, literary critic, academic, and philosopher who wrote in the Bengali language.

1921 – Francisco José Tenreiro, São Toméan geographer, poet, and essayist; one of his primary themes explored Blacks suffering during colonial rule and the problems of the Black diaspora in Portugal and around the world.

1925 – Ernesto Cardenal, Nicaraguan poet, politician, and Catholic priest who founded a primitivistic art colony.

1930 – Blair Lent, Caldecott Medal-winning U.S. children’s author and illustrator who sometimes wrote under the pseudonym Ernest Small; he was best known for his books with Chinese themes, such as Tikki Tikki Tembo.

1932 – Heberto Juan Padilla, Cuban writer, poet, and university professor who was the center of the so-called “Padilla affair,” in which he was imprisoned for criticizing the government.

1934 – Hennie Aucamp, South African poet, academic, and short-story writer who wrote in Afrikaans.

1937 – Curtis Earle Lang, Canadian poet, artist, photographer, seaman, inventor, and entrepreneur.

1944 – Caroline Mavis Caddy, award-winning Australian poet and dental nurse; it has been said that, “Caddy writes with equal verve about the rural southwest of WA and her time abroad, particularly in China (though also Canada and Antarctica).… Her relaxed, often conversational tone belies her sharp eye for detail which, combined with a knack for simile and metaphor, has remained acute throughout her career.”

1944 – William Henry Jackson Griffith, U.S. cartoonist who signs his work Bill Griffith or Griffy, and is best known for the comic strip “Zippy”; he is credited with originating the popular catchphrase, “Are we having fun yet?”

1945 – Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. short-story writer and novelist.

1948 – Nancy Kress, multiple Hugo and Nebula Award-winning U.S. science-fiction author, short-story writer, columnist, and educator; she tends to write hard science fiction, or technically realistic stories, often set in a fairly near future.

1948 – Natan Sharansky, Soviet-born Israeli politician, author, autobiographer, and human-rights activist who was sent to prison in the Soviet Union for allegedly spying for the Defense Intelligence Agency.

1952 – Roo Borson (real name Ruth Elizabeth Borson), award-winning Canadian writer and poet who is a member of the collaborative performance poetry ensemble Pain Not Bread.

1952 – Khurshid Davron, Soviet writer, poet, historical fiction writer, translator, and playwright whose work presents historical and cultural perspectives from Uzbekistan and nearby Central Asia.

1952 – Nikos Sideris, Greek poet, novelist, nonfiction writer, translator, psychiatrist, and psychoanalyst who wrote a bestselling nonfiction book, Children Do Not Need Psychologists. They Need Parents!

1953 – Sevda Mikayilova, Azerbaijani philologist, educator, researcher, and poet.

1956 – Pía Barros Bravo, Chilean writer who is associated with her country’s Generation of ’80 literary movement; she is best known for her short stories.

1956 – Stanka Gjuric, Croatian writer, poet, essayist, actress, filmmaker, opinion writer, and philosopher; most of her published work takes the form of poems and of philosophical and lyrical essays.

1956 – Bill Maher, controversial U.S. comedian, political commentator, television personality, and author.

1958 – Paola Tiziana Cruciani, Italian writer, screenwriter, playwright, and actress.

1959 – Tami Hoag, bestselling U.S. author of romance and thriller novels.

1959 – R.A. Salvatore, U.S. author of bestselling fantasy and science fiction books, known for his “Forgotten Realms” and “Star Wars” books.

1960 – Marcello Fois, prolific, award-winning Italian screenwriter, writer, playwright, children’s writer who is a leading proponent of the New Sardinian Literature movement.

1960 – Kij Johnson, (born Katherine Irenae Johnson) award-winning U.S. novelist, essayist, writer, professor, fantasy writer, and science-fiction writer.

1961 – Li Li, award-winning Chinese poet and literary translator who currently resides in Stockholm.

1962 – Ulrike Draesner, award-winning German writer, romance novelist, poet, translator, author, editor, short-story writer, and literary critic; she frequently collaborates on cross-media projects with other artists and merges literature with sculpting, performing arts, and music.

1962 – Laima Muktupavela Kota, award-winning Latvian author.

1964 – Kazushige Nojima, Japanese screenwriter, writer, lyricist, and videogame writer who is best known for writing several installments of Square Enix’s “Final Fantasy” videogame series.

1964 – Fareed Zakaria, U.S. Indian-American journalist and author.

1967 – Alexander Ahndoril, Swedish novelist and playwright who has also written crime novels with his wife, Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril, under the joint pen name Lars Kepler.

1971 – Uni Arge, Faroese journalist, writer, singer, and professional soccer player.

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