January 15 Writer Birthdays

1622 – Molière (real name Jean-Baptiste Polian), French playwright who is considered one of the masters of comedy in Western literature.

1711 – Sidonia Hedwig Zäunemann (known as die Zäunemännin), German poet who became Poet Laureate of Göttingen at the age of 24.

1781 – Pablo de Jérica, Spanish writer, poet, short-story writer, and journalist known for irony, satire, and caricature.

1791 – Franz Grillparzer, Austrian dramatist who perpetuated the German classic and Romantic traditions and was considered the leading playwright of his day; he also influenced later playwrights Hauptmann and Maeterlinck.

1803 – Marjorie Fleming (also spelt Marjory), Scottish child writer, diarist, and poet who died at the age of eight, but whose work was praised by Robert Louis Stevenson and Walter Scott and became hugely popular with Victorian readers. Her manuscripts are now housed at the National Library of Scotland.

1805 – Louise-Angélique Bertin, award-winning French poet, poet, librettist, and composer; she was the only composer to collaborate with writer Victor Hugo on an operatic version of his work, writing the music to his libretto for the opera La Esmeralda, based on his book Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame).

1812 – Peter Christen Asbjørnsen, Norwegian writer, scholar, marine biologist, forester, children’s writer, and collector of fairy tales.

1826 – Clementine Abel (née Clementine Hofmeister, and also known as Clelie Betemann), German author who wrote poems and tales especially for children and teenagers, as well as articles for newspapers.

1828 – Mary Jane Katzmann, award-winning Canadian author, editor, historian, poet, and bookseller; she signed her work M.J.K. before her marriage, and M.J.K.L, after her marriage to William Lawson. Her book History of the Townships of Dartmouth, Preston and Lawrencetown, Halifax County, N.S., is considered an enduring contribution to Canadian literature.

1839 – Eugenio María de Hostos, Puerto Rican educator, novelist, essayist, philosopher, intellectual, women’s rights activist, lawyer, and sociologist who was a Puerto Rican independence advocate; he was called “El Gran Ciudadano de las Américas” (“The Great Citizen of the Americas”).

1850 – Mihai Eminescu (born Mihail Eminovic), Romanian Romantic poet, novelist, editor, journalist, and translator; he is considered the most popular and influential Romanian poet.

1850 – Sophie Kowalevski (also spelled Sofya Vasilyevna Kovalevskaya; she was born Korvin-Krukovskaya), Russian mathematician, writer, memoirist, and playwright who made noteworthy contributions to analysis, partial differential equations, and mechanics. She was a pioneer for women in mathematics around the world – the first woman to obtain a doctorate (in the modern sense) in mathematics, the first woman appointed to a full professorship in northern Europe, and one of the first woman to work as editor for a scientific journal; according to historian of science Ann Hibner Koblitz, she was “the greatest known woman scientist before the twentieth century.”

1859 – Paulina Kuczalska-Reinschmit, Polish social reformer, women’s suffragist, publisher, writer, and feminist activist.

1860 – Eleanor Hull, English writer, journalist, literary critic, and scholar of Old Irish who wrote books on Irish history, culture, folklore, and literature.

1864 – Sabine Lepsius, German portrait painter, author, memoirist, lithographer, and salonnière; most of her approximately 280 portraits were of people in the Jewish community and were lost or destroyed during World War II.

1867 – Federico Gana, Chilean diplomat and short-story writer who is considered a pioneer in the use of the Chilean countryside as a literary theme.

1872 – José Lopes da Silva, Cape Verdean professor, journalist, and poet.

1872 – Ahmed Lutfi el-Sayed, prominent, influential Egyptian writer, politician, academic, and anti-colonial activist who was the first director of Cairo University and who was fondly known as the “Professor of the Generation.”

1875 – Clara Pollaczek, Austrian writer of light novels, stories, plays, and verse; some of her works appeared under the pseudonyms “Bob” or “Bob Béol.”

1879 – Mazo de la Roche, Canadian author of the Jalna novels, one of the most popular series of books of her time.

1882 – Jun Kawada, prolific Japanese tanka poet, Poet Laureate, and entrepreneur who was particularly known for his patriotic poetry during World War II. He also gained notoriety by eloping at the age of 68 with the young wife of one of his disciples; in a poem about the relationship, he wrote, “to an old man approaching his grave, love holds no fear.”

1887 – Carmen Lyra (pseudonym for Maria Isabel Carvajal Quesada), Costa Rican writer, novelist, folklorist, pedagogue, children’s writer, librettist, and politician who was the first prominent female Costa Rican writer, the founder of the country’s first Montessori school, and the co-founder of the Communist Party of Costa Rica.

1891 – Osip Mandelstam, Warsaw-born Soviet poet, essayist, literary critic, and memoirist who was one of the foremost members of the Acmeist school, or Guild of Poets, a movement characterized by compactness of form and clarity of expression; he was twice arrested and sent into exile for poems critical of Stalin, and died in a transit camp in 1938.

1897 – Xu Zhimo (also known as Changhsu Hamilton Hsu), Chinese poet, writer, and translator who loosened Chinese poetry from its traditional forms and reshaped it under the influences of Western poetry and the vernacular Chinese language; he is considered one of the key figures in modern Chinese poetry.

1898 – Rachel (Rokhl) Häring Korn, award-winning Polish and Canadian poet and author who wrote most of her works in Yiddish.

1902 – Nâzım Hikmet, Greek-born Turkish poet, memoirist, novelist, screenwriter, playwright, and author who was a leader in the Turkish avant-garde literary movement and was praised for the “lyrical flow of his statements,” but was repeatedly arrested for his revolutionary political beliefs and spent much of his adult life in prison or in exile.

1913 – Raymond Sarif Easmon, prominent Sierra Leonean doctor, playwright, novelist, and short-story writer who was known for his political activism and criticism of government corruption, which led to his arrest in 1970.

1913 – Miriam Beatrice Hyde, Australian poet, autobiographer, composer, pianist, and music educator.

1914 – Esther “Etty” Hillesum, Dutch Jewish writer whose letters and diaries describe life in Amsterdam during the German occupation; she died in Auschwitz in 1943.

1915 – Chaganti Somayajulu, Indian author who is considered one of the best short-story writers in 20th century Telugu-language literature, and who also wrote plays and poetry; he was popularly known by the pseudonym CHASO, which combines the first syllables of his name.

1916 – Mikki Doyle (Miriam Levental), U.S. journalist, women’s page editor, feminist, and liberal activist.

1916 – Henri Frans de Ziel, influential Surinamese writer, poet, editor, and librarian who primarily wrote about the beauty of his native country.

1921 – Kristian Ottosen, Norwegian nonfiction writer who was active in the resistance movement during World War II and spent several years in concentration camps; after the war he wrote a memoir of his experiences as well as a series of historical accounts.

1923 – Ivor Cutler, Scottish poet, humorist, writer, children’s author, singer, comedian, songwriter, painter, teacher, and radio personality who was well known through his work on the BBC.

1925 – Yevgeny Ivanovich Nosov, award-winning Soviet Russian novelist and short-story writer who was part of the village prose movement, known for writing that “highlighted the tragedy of the War and the immense consequences it had for the Russian village, revealed to the full extent the belated bitterness of forgotten and neglected war veterans.”

1929 – Martin Luther King Jr., U.S. Baptist minister, activist, writer, essayist, orator, and speechwriter who became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the American civil rights movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968; writings such as his “Letter From Birmingham Jail” and his so-called I Have a Dream speech gave voice to the ideals of the civil rights movement and provided a blueprint for other nonviolent protests.

1931 – Jan Błoński, Polish writer, historian, literary critic, publicist, editor, translator, and university teacher; a leading representative of the Kraków school of literary criticism, he was regarded as one of the most influential critics of postwar Poland.

1931 – Alan Scholefield, South African novelist, short-story writer, nonfiction author, and journalist.

1932 – Alija Isakovic, Bosnian writer, essayist, publicist, playwright, and lexicographer of the Bosnian language; he was notable for his works on Bosnian literary history, asserting the special character and identity of Bosniaks.

1932 – Joan Lingard, Scottish author of bestselling novels for children, teens, and adults.

1933 – Ernest J. Gaines, U.S. African-American author, short-story writer, and professor, best known for his novels A Lesson Before Dying and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.

1934 – Lee O-young, award-winning South Korean literary critic, novelist, essayist, and professor.

1935 – Shamsur Rahman Faruqi, Indian poet and groundbreaking Urdu literary critic and theorist who ushered modernism into Urdu literary criticism by adapting western principles of criticism and applying them to Urdu literature. He has been described as, “the century’s most iconic figure in the realm of Urdu literature.” He died in 2020 of complications from covid-19.

1935 – Robert Silverberg, multiple Hugo and Nebula Award-winning U.S. science-fiction and fantasy author and editor; he was named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.

1943 – Akbar Ahmed, award-winning Indian-born Pakistani anthropologist, author, poet, playwright, filmmaker, and professor; he has been called “the world’s leading authority on contemporary Islam.” He is currently based in the U.S.

1944 – Jenny Nimmo, British author of children’s fiction; she is best known for the “Children of the Red King” (Charlie Bone) series.

1946 – Nouréini Tidjani-Serpos, Beninese writer, poet, novelist, essayist, literary critic, professor, and UNESCO official.

1949 – Zsófia Balla, prominent Romanian-born Hungarian poet, writer, journalist, and essayist.

1954 – Jose Y. Dalisay, prolific, award-winning Filipino writer of novels, short stories, poetry, drama, nonfiction books, and screenplays; the Cultural Center of the Philippines included him on the Centennial Honors List as one of the 100 most accomplished Filipino artists of the century.

1965 – Katarina Kieri, award-winning Swedish writer, poet, young-adult novelist, teacher, broadcaster, and columnist.

1966 – Giles Milton, bestselling U.K. historical narrative writer, nonfiction author, novelist, journalist, children’s writer, and comic novelist.

1972 – Claudia Anne I. Winkleman, British journalist, television presenter, film critic, and radio personality.

1974 – Lili Mendoza (born Lilia Ester Mendoza Peregrina), award-winning Panamanian writer, poet, columnist, and short-story writer whose prose depicts the absurdity of contemporary Panamanian society.

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