May 20 Writer Birthdays

1470 – Pietro Bembo, Venetian Italian writer, poet, librarian, historian, essayist, translator, and Catholic cardinal; he influential in the development of the Italian language, specifically Tuscan, as a literary medium, codifying the language for standard modern usage.

1505 – Levinus Lemnius, Dutch writer, physician, astrologer, and Catholic priest.

1754 – Elisabeth “Elisa” Charlotte Constanzia von der Recke (née von Medem), German writer, memoirist, biographer, and poet.

1787 – Ema Saikō, Japanese writer, poet, artist, painter, and calligrapher who was one of the most acclaimed Japanese artists of her age; her kanshi poetry is known for being self-reflective and autobiographical.

1799 – Honore de Balzac, French novelist and playwright who is considered one of the founders of European realism.

1806 – John Stuart Mill, British writer, philosopher, economist, autobiographer, suffragist, and feminist; he is considered one of the most influential thinkers in the history of classical liberalism and contributed widely to social theory, political theory, and political economy.

1811 – Alfred Domett, New Zealand writer, poet, barrister, and politician who was Prime Minister of New Zealand.

1824 – Sofia Dmitriyevna Khvoshchinskaya, Russian writer of literary fiction and social commentary; she was also a painter and translator.

1830 – Hector Malot, French novelist, memoirist, literary critic, and theatre critic.

1850 – Vishnushastri Chiplunkar, Indian Marathi writer, whose writings have had a decisive influence on modern Marathi prose style.

1858 – Emma Adler (née Braun), Austrian journalist and writer who also wrote under the pen names Marion Lorm and Helene Erdmann.

1870 – Sarah Winifred Parry, acclaimed Welsh short-story writer and novelist who is credited with developing the modern Welsh short story.

1882 – Sigrid Undset, Nobel Prize-winning Norwegian novelist, known for her powerful descriptions of Northern life during the Middle Ages.

1884 – Salman Mumtaz, renowned Azerbaijani poet, writer, literary scholar, and literary historian; in his efforts to collect, publish, and promote his country’s classical literary legacy, he discovered unknown manuscripts of several Azerbaijani poets.

1885 – Dorita Fairlie Bruce, popular British novelist and children’s writer; she was a pioneer in creating series of books that followed a group of girls throughout their school years and beyond.

1886 – Chieko Takamura, Japanese writer, poet, painter, illustrator, and papercut artist; she was an early member of the Japanese feminist movement Seitōsha.

1890 – Allan Nevins, U.S. historian and biographer, winner of the 1933 Pulitzer Prize for his biography of Grover Cleveland.

1893 – Vincas Mykolaitis-Putinas, Lithuanian writer, poet, literary critic, and literary historian.

1897 – Diego Abad de Santillán (born Sinesio Vaudilio García Fernández), Spanish author, economist, editor, writer, politician, and journalist who was a leading figure in the Spanish and Argentine anarchist movements.

1900 – Lydia Cabrera, Afro-Cuban writer, poet, and anthropologist who was an expert on Santería and other Afro-Cuban religions; her most important book is El Monte (The Wilderness), which was the first major ethnographic study of Afro-Cuban traditions, herbalism, and religion.

1900 – Sumitranandan Pant, Indian poet who was one of the most celebrated 20th century poets of the Hindi language; he was known for romanticism in his poems, which were inspired by nature, people, and the beauty within.

1902 – Horacio Hidrovo Velásquez, award-winning Ecuadorian novelist, poet, and short-story writer; his son was the poet Horacio Hidrovo Peñaherrera.

1904 – Margery Louise Allingham, English writer of detective fiction, best remembered for her “golden age” stories featuring gentleman sleuth Albert Campion.

1904 – Tatsuo Nagai, Japanese writer of short stories, novels, and essays who was best known for his portrayals of city life; he also wrote haiku poetry under the pen name Tomonkyo.

1904 – Hemi Potatau, New Zealand Maori writer, soldier, and Presbyterian minister.

1905 – Hedda Zinner, German political writer, journalist, translator, actress, and radio broadcaster.

1911 – Annie M.G. Schmidt, Dutch writer, poet, librarian, playwright, author, and children’s writer; she is considered one of the greatest Dutch writers and has been called “the Queen of Dutch children’s literature.”

1919 – Gustaw Herling-Grudziński, Polish writer, poet, journalist, literary critic, political dissident, and World War II resistance fighter; his is best known for A World Apart, his personal account of life in a Soviet Gulag.

1919 – Berry Morgan (born Betty Berry Taylor Brumfield), U.S. novelist, short-story writer, professor, and civil-rights activist who wrote about the South; her work has been compared to that of Flannery O’Connor.

1921 – Kulwant Singh Virk, award-winning Indian short-story writer who wrote mostly in Punjabi but also in English.

1923 – Samuel “Sam” Selvon, Trinidadian writer, journalist, and novelist; his novel The Lonely Londoners is groundbreaking in its use of creolized English for narrative as well as dialogue.

1924 – Mitsuo Aida, Japanese poet and calligrapher who was known as The Poet of Zen; his work was influenced by Zen Buddhism.

1929 – Marcelino dos Santos, Mozambican poet, writer, revolutionary, and politician; he has also written under the pseudonyms Kalungano and Lilinho Micaia.

1935 – Hanna Krall, Polish writer and journalist who specializes in writing about the history of the Holocaust in occupied Poland.

1936 – Glenn R. Swetman, U.S. poet, professor, short-story writer, and playwright.

1937 – Maria Teresa Mascarenhas Horta, Portuguese feminist poet, journalist, novelist, and activist.

1940 – Claude Dagens, French writer and Catholic bishop who specializes in Catholic doctrine; he has written much about the role of the Church in French society and its relationship with secularism.

1941 – Betty Louise Turtle (née Webster, which she also used in her published works), Australian astronomer, physicist, and writer who, along with her colleague Paul Murdin, identified the powerful X-ray source Cygnus X-1 as the first clear candidate for a black hole.

1944 – Clyde Edgerton, U.S. author and professor whose books are known for endearing characters, small-town Southern dialogue, and realistic fire-and-brimstone religious sermons.

1945 – Lutfi Lepaja, Kosovo Albanian novelist, essayist, poet, teacher, playwright, and literary critic.

1949 – Mary Pope Osborne, award-winning U.S. children’s book author best known for her popular “Magic Tree House” series and for her efforts to promote literacy.

1949 – Michèle Brigitte Roberts, British writer, novelist, and poet.

1949 – David William Thomas, Canadian actor, screenwriter, comedian, and director.

1950 – Wei Jingsheng, Chinese writer, essayist, and human rights activist known for his involvement in the Chinese democracy movement; his essay, “The Fifth Modernization,” posted on the Democracy Wall in Beijing in 1978, resulted in his arrest and conviction for “counterrevolutionary” activities; he spent a total of 18 years in prison.

1951 – Stanley Bing (pen name for Gil Schwartz), U.S. business humorist, novelist, and columnist.

1952 – Walter Isaacson, U.S. writer and journalist.

1955 – Sirivennela (pen name for Chembolu SeethaRama Sastry) – Indian poet and film lyricist who writes in the Telugu language; his work shows great versatility but is best known for its optimism and humor.

1956 – Douglas Jerome Preston, U.S. author of thriller novels, often with collaborator Lincoln Child.

1959 – Marianne Curley, Australian author best known for her “Guardians of Time” trilogy and her “Old Magic” books.

1963 – Christopher Sorrentino, U.S. novelist of Puerto Rican descent.

1964 – Marcela Iacub, Argentine writer, novelist, poet, and lawyer who is now based in France, where she specializes in bioethics research.

1966 – Dan Abrams, U.S. journalist, author, television host, legal commentator, former anchor of “Nightline,” and Chief Legal Affairs Anchor for ABC News.

1969 – Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. author, editor, and biographer.

1970 – Dorthe Nors, Danish novelist, short-story writer, and translator.

1974 – Chékéba Hachemi, Afghan writer, diplomat, activist, and feminist.

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