1961 in literature
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In poetry: 1958 1959 1960 -1961- 1962 1963 1964
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The year 1961 in literature involved some significant events and new works.
- January 24 - American dramatist Arthur Miller and film star Marilyn Monroe are granted a divorce in Mexico, on the grounds of "incompatibility".
- February - Sylvia Plath suffers a miscarriage. Several of her poems, including "Parliament Hill Fields", address this event.
- March 15 - Hugh Wheeler's comedy Big Fish, Little Fish opens at the ANTA Theatre in New York City. Directed by Sir John Gielgud, it is one of the first Broadway plays to explore frankly the issue of male homosexuality.
- March 20 - Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, becomes the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and its company the Royal Shakespeare Company (Peter Hall (director)).
- May - Grove Press publishes Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer in the United States 27 years after its original publication in France. The book leads to one of many obscenity trials (Grove Press, Inc., v. Gerstein) that test American laws on pornography in the 1960s.
- September 14 - Novelist William Golding, having resigned his post at Bishop Wordsworth's School in Salisbury, sets off from England to spend the academic year 1961/62 teaching at Hollins College, Virginia, USA.
- Richard Booth opens a second-hand bookshop in Hay-on-Wye on the English border with Wales.
- First English production of Bertolt Brecht's The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui.
- Michael Halliday publishes his seminal paper on the systemic functional grammar model.
- Brian Aldiss - The Primal Urge
- Poul Anderson - Three Hearts and Three Lions
- J. G. Ballard - The Wind From Nowhere
- James Barlow - Term of Trial
- Pat Boone - 'Twixt Twelve and Twenty
- Jorge Luis Borges - Ficciones (The Garden of Forking Paths and Artifices translated by Anthony Bonner)
- Morley Callaghan - A Passion in Rome
- John Dickson Carr - The Witch of the Low Tide: An Edwardian Melodrama
- Agatha Christie
- A. J. Cronin - The Judas Tree
- Roald Dahl - James and the Giant Peach
- L. Sprague de Camp - The Dragon of the Ishtar Gate
- August Derleth - The Reminiscences of Solar Pons
- Cyprian Ekwensi - Jagua Nana
- Ian Fleming - Thunderball
- Ernest K. Gann - Fate Is the Hunter
- Gabriel García Márquez - No One Writes to the Colonel (El coronel no tiene quien le escriba)
- Winston Graham - Marnie
- Vasily Grossman - Everything Flows (Все течет; first published 1989)
- Harry Harrison - The Stainless Steel Rat
- Robert A. Heinlein - Stranger in a Strange Land
- Joseph Heller - Catch-22
- Marlen Haushofer - The Wall
- Patricia Highsmith - This Sweet Sickness
- Richard Hughes -The Fox in the Attic
- Norton Juster - The Phantom Tollbooth
- Margaret Laurence - The Stone Angel
- John le Carré - Call for the Dead
- Stanisław Lem - Solaris
- H. P. Lovecraft - The Shunned House
- Iris Murdoch - A Severed Head
- V. S. Naipaul - A House for Mr. Biswas
- R. K. Narayan - The Man-Eater of Malgudi
- Juan Carlos Onetti - El astillero ("The Shipyard")
- Walker Percy - The Moviegoer
- Harold Robbins - The Carpetbaggers
- J. D. Salinger - Franny and Zooey
- Leonardo Sciascia - Il giorno della civetta
- Muriel Spark - The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
- John Steinbeck - The Winter of Our Discontent
- Irving Stone - The Agony and the Ecstasy
- Rex Stout - The Final Deduction
- Theodore Sturgeon - Some of Your Blood
- Leon Uris - Mila 18
- Rose Valland - Le front de l'art
- Kurt Vonnegut - Mother Night
- H. Russell Wakefield - Strayers from Sheol
- Edward Lewis Wallant - The Pawnbroker
- Evelyn Waugh - Unconditional Surrender
- Morris West - Daughter of Silence
- Richard Yates - Revolutionary Road
- Yevgeny Yevtushenko - Zima Junction
- John Barton - The Hollow Crown (anthology)
- Samuel Beckett - Rough for Radio I, Rough for Radio II
- Henry Denker - A Far Country
- Max Frisch - Andorra
- Jean Genet - The Screens
- Girish Karnad - Yayati
- Heiner Müller - Die Umsiedlerin ("The Resettler Woman")
- John Osborne - Luther
- Neil Simon - Come Blow Your Horn
- Tennessee Williams - The Night of the Iguana
- René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo - Asterix the Gaul (Astérix le Gaulois)
- Dr. Seuss - The Sneetches and Other Stories
- L. Sprague de Camp
- Frantz Fanon - The Wretched of the Earth
- Fritz Fischer - Griff nach der Weltmacht: Die Kriegzielpolitik des kaiserlichen Deutschland 1914–1918
- Jane Jacobs - The Death and Life of Great American Cities
- Marshall McLuhan - The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man
- Karl Popper - The Poverty of Historicism
- Bertrand Russell - Has Man a Future?
- Webster's Third New International Dictionary
- Raymond Williams - The Long Revolution
- Peter Wessel Zapffe - Indføring i litterær dramaturgi ("Introduction to literary dramaturgy")
- January 11 - Jasper Fforde, fantasy novelist
- January 12 - Simon Russell Beale, actor
- January 28 – Arnaldur Indridason, Icelandic writer
- June 9 - Aaron Sorkin, screenwriter, producer, and playwright
- June 23 - David Leavitt, novelist
- July 7 – Eric Jerome Dickey, American writer
- August 20 - Greg Egan, science fiction author
- September 13 - Tom Holt, historical and comic novelist
- November 9 - Jackie Kay, poet and novelist
- November 14 - Jurga Ivanauskaitė, Lithuanian writer (died 2007)
- November 18 - Steven Moffat, TV writer
- November 24 – Arundhati Roy, writer and activist
- December 8 – Ann Coulter, American author
- November 20 - David Mills, journalist and TV writer (died 2010)
- December 23 – Ezzat el Kamhawi, Egyptian novelist and journalist
- December 30 - Douglas Coupland, author
- January 10 - Dashiell Hammett, crime writer and screenwriter, 66 (lung cancer)
- January 21 - Blaise Cendrars, Swiss novelist and poet, 73
- January 30 - Dorothy Thompson, influential journalist, 67
- May 26 - William Troy, writer and teacher, 57 (cancer)
- June 2 - George S. Kaufman, dramatist and critic, 71
- July 2 - Ernest Hemingway, novelist, 61 (suicide)
- July 12 - Mazo de la Roche, novelist, 82
- July 17 - Olga Forsh, Russian dramatist, novelist and memoirist, 88
- September 27 - H.D., poet, novelist and memoirist, 75
- October 19 - Mihail Sadoveanu, Romanian novelist, 80
- November 2 - James Thurber, humorist, 66
- December 7 - Roussan Camille, Haitian poet and journalist, 49
- Carnegie Medal for children's literature: Lucy M. Boston, A Stranger at Green Knowe
- Eric Gregory Award: Adrian Mitchell, Geoffrey Hill
- Formentor Prize: Jorge Luis Borges and Samuel Beckett
- James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction: Jennifer Dawson, The Ha-Ha
- James Tait Black Memorial Prize for biography: M. K. Ashby, Joseph Ashby of Tysoe
- Lorne Pierce Medal: Robertson Davies
- Newbery Medal for children's literature: Scott O'Dell, Island of the Blue Dolphins
- Nobel Prize for literature - Ivo Andric
- Premio Nadal: Juan Antonio Payno, El curso
- Pulitzer Prize for Drama: Tad Mosel, All the Way Home
- Pulitzer Prize for Fiction: Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird
- Pulitzer Prize for Poetry: Phyllis McGinley: Times Three: Selected Verse From Three Decades
- "1961: End of the road for Monroe and Miller". On This Day. BBC. 24 January 1961. Retrieved 18 April 2013.
- Kirk, Connie Ann (2004). Sylvia Plath: A Biography. Westport, CN: Greenwood Press. p. 85. ISBN 0-313-33214-2.
- Senelick, Laurence (2013). Theatre Arts on Acting. Routledge. p. 74. ISBN 113472375X.
- "Key Dates". Royal Shakespeare Company. 2010. Archived from the original on 16 June 2010. Retrieved 30 June 2010.
- Carey, John (2009). William Golding: The Man Who Wrote 'Lord of the Flies'. London: Faber. ISBN 9780571231638.
- Halliday, M. A. K. (1961). "Categories of the theory of grammar". WORD (International Linguistic Association) 17 (3): 241–92.
- Hellman, Lilian, Introduction to Hammett, Dashiell, The Big Knockover: Selected Stories and Short Novels (Houghton Mifflin: 1962) (published posthumously)