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This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1938.
- January – The trilogy U.S.A., by John Dos Passos, is published, containing his three novels The 42nd Parallel (1930), 1919 (1932), and The Big Money (1936).
- February 21 – Gay American writer and composer Paul Bowles marries lesbian American writer Jane Auer at a Reformed Church in Manhattan.
- March 7 – Samuel Beckett's first completed novel Murphy is published in London.
- July 11 – The first live drama adaptation in Orson Welles' The Mercury Theatre on the Air series on CBS Radio in the United States is broadcast, Bram Stoker's Dracula.
- September 13 – First performance in Britain of a play by Bertolt Brecht, Mrs Carrar's Rifles, opens at the Unity Theatre, London.
- October 30 – Orson Welles' radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds is broadcast in The Mercury Theatre on the Air series.
- December 24 – Jorge Luis Borges is injured in an accident and develops blood poisoning. While recovering in the following year he will write the first short story in his later characteristic style.
- First complete performance of both parts of Goethe's Faust (1808/32), unabridged, at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland.
- Avant-garde musician and theoretician Pierre Schaeffer begins his writing career as an essayist for a number of French musical journals.
Children and young people
- January 5 – Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o (also known as James Ngigi), Kenyan novelist
- January 20 – Liz Calder, English publisher and editor
- February 9 – Jovette Marchessault, French Canadian writer and artist (died 2012)
- February 12
- February 22 – Ishmael Reed, American poet, essayist and novelist
- March 1 – Michael Kurland, American author of sci-fi and detective fiction
- March 14 – Eleanor Bron, English humorous writer and actress
- March 24 – Ian Hamilton, English critic, biographer and poet (died 2001)
- April 29 – Larry Niven, American sci-fi author
- May 13 – Norma Klein, American author (died 1989)
- May 25
- May 26 – Lyudmila Petrushevskaya, Russian novelist and playwright
- June 16 – Joyce Carol Oates, American novelist
- June 24 – Lawrence Block, American crime writer
- July 19
- August 21 – Mudrooroo (Colin Johnson), Australian novelist
- September 3 – Caryl Churchill, English dramatist
- September 15 – Charles L. Mee, American dramatist
- October 12 – Anne Perry (Juliet Marion Hulme), English historical novelist
- October 13 – Hugo Young, English journalist (died 2003)
- October 17 – Les Murray, Australian poet
- October 19 – Allan Massie, Singapore-born Scottish writer
- December 9 – Willi Glasauer, German artist and illustrator
- December 14 – Leonardo Boff (Genézio Darci Boff), Brazilian philosopher and theologian
- December 21 – Frank Moorhouse, Australian journalist, author, and screenwriter
- December 31 – Basudeb Dasgupta, Bengali novelist (died 2005)
- Unknown dates
- January 4 – Paola Drigo, Italian writer (born 1876)
- January 16 – Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay (Sarat Chandra Chattergee), Bengali novelist (born 1876)
- January 19 – Branislav Nušić, Serbian novelist and dramatist (born 1864)
- January 29 – Armando Palacio Valdés, Spanish novelist and critic (born 1853)
- February 13 – Momčilo Nastasijević, Serbian poet, novelist and dramatist (born 1894)
- March 1 – Gabriele D'Annunzio, Italian poet and novelist (born 1863)
- April 19 – Sir Henry Newbolt, English poet (born 1862)
- April 21 – Lady Ottoline Morrell, English literary hostess (born 1873)
- May 26 – James Forbes, Canadian American dramatist and screenwriter (born 1871)
- June 9 – Ovid Densusianu, Romanian poet, philologist, and literary historian (born 1873)
- June 26
- August 7 – Konstantin Stanislavski, Russian theatre director (born 1863)
- August 26 – Millosh Gjergj Nikolla, Albanian poet and writer (tuberculosis, born 1911)
- September 15 – Thomas Wolfe, American novelist (tuberculosis, born 1900)
- October 27 – Lascelles Abercrombie, English poet and literary critic (born 1881)
- December 23 – Robert Herrick, American realist novelist (born 1868)
- December 25 – Karel Čapek, Czech science fiction author and dramatist (pneumonia, born 1890)
- December 27 – Osip Mandelstam, Russian poet and essayist (in detention, born 1891)