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The year 1949 in literature involved some significant events and new books.
- January 11 - Bertolt Brecht's play Mother Courage and Her Children (Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder, 1939) is first performed in Germany, at the Deutsches Theater in East Berlin with his wife Helene Weigel in the title role and staged with his Verfremdungseffekt ("distancing effect").
- February 10 - Arthur Miller's tragedy Death of a Salesman opens at the Morosco Theatre on Broadway in New York City with Lee J. Cobb in the title rôle of Willy Loman and runs for 742 performances.
- March - Poet Pablo Neruda flees Chile over the Lilpela Pass through the Andes to Argentina on horseback carrying a manuscript of his Canto General.
- April 14 - N'Ko alphabet devised by Solomana Kante as a writing system and literary language for the Manding languages of West Africa.
- May - Welsh poet Dylan Thomas and his wife Caitlin settle at the Boat House, Laugharne in South Wales.
- June 8 - George Orwell's dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four is published in London by Secker & Warburg.
- June - Oxford University Dramatic Society production of Shakespeare's The Tempest beside Worcester College lake, directed by Nevill Coghill.
- October 5 - American writer Helene Hanff writes her first letter from New York City to the London antiquarian bookdealers Marks & Co in a correspondence which will eventually be collected as 84, Charing Cross Road.
- October 13 - George Orwell marries Sonia Brownell while confined in University College Hospital, London, where he will die 3 months later.
- Arthur C. Clarke becomes Assistant Editor of Science Abstracts.
- Radclyffe Hall's lesbian novel The Well of Loneliness, convicted of obscenity in the United Kingdom on first publication in 1928, is republished posthumously in the U.K. by Falcon Press with no legal challenge.
- Jean-Paul Sartre completes his Les Chemins de la Liberté ("The Roads to Freedom") trilogy.
- The Théâtre du Rideau Vert is founded in Montreal by Yvette Brind'Amour and Mercedes Palomino as the first professional French-language theatre in Canada.
- A statue of folk poet Larin Paraske is erected in Helsinki.
- Enid Blyton's children's books Little Noddy Goes to Toyland, the first to introduce the title character; and The Secret Seven, first in the eponymous series, are published in England.
- January 1 – Radu Țuculescu, Romanian novelist, dramatist and theater director
- January 12 – Haruki Murakami (村上 春樹), Japanese novelist
- January 16 – John Guy, Australian-born British historian and biographer
- January 26 – Jonathan Carroll, American author of fantasy fiction
- January 27 – Ethan Mordden, American author
- February 4 – Mark D. Devlin, American memoirist (died 2005)
- February 23 – César Aira, Argentinian writer
- March 26 – Patrick Süskind, German novelist
- April 11 – Dorothy Allison, American novelist and campaigner
- April 25 – James Fenton, English journalist, poet, critic and academic
- June 5 – Ken Follett, English novelist
- June 21 – John Agard, Guyanese poet
- July 15 – Richard Russo, American Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist
- August 3 – Peter Gutmann, American journalist
- August 25 – Martin Amis, English novelist and critic
- September – Jimmy McGovern, English screenwriter
- October 5 – Peter Ackroyd, English biographer, novelist and critic
- November 2 – Lois McMaster Bujold, American author of science fiction and fantasy
- November 24 – Erwin Neutzsky-Wulff, Danish philosopher
- December 22 – David Gilmour, Canadian novelist
- December 24 – Alberto Pérez-Gómez, Mexican-born architectural historian
- Unknown date– John Harris, American political writer
- January 21 – William Price Drury, English novelist, playwright and Royal Marines officer (born 1861)
- February 11 – Axel Munthe, Swedish autobiographer and psychiatrist (born 1857)
- May 6 – Maurice Maeterlinck, Belgian poet, playwright and Nobel Laureate (born 1862)
- June 10 – Sigrid Undset, Norwegian author and Nobel Laureate (born 1882)
- June 11 – Oton Župančič, Slovene poet, translator and dramatist (born 1878)
- June 14 – Russell Doubleday, American author and publisher (born 1872)
- July 2 – Elsa Bernstein (Ernst Rosmer), German dramatist (born 1866)
- August 2 – Hermann Grab, Bohemian German-language novelist (born 1903)
- August 8 – E. H. Young, English novelist (born 1880)
- August 16 – Margaret Mitchell, American novelist (road accident, born 1900))
- September 4 – Herbert Eulenberg, German poet and dramatist (born 1876)
- September 6 – Lucien Descaves, French novelist (born 1861)
- September 19
- September 21 – Jorge Cáceres, Chilean poet and artist (born 1923)
- October 20 – Jacques Copeau, French actor and dramatist (born 1879)
- October 24 – Thomas Rowland Hughes, Welsh-language novelist, dramatist and poet, 46 (multiple sclerosis, born 1903))
- December 7 – Rex Beach, American author (born 1877)
- December 28 – Hervey Allen, American novelist (heart attack, born 1889)
- V. M. Straka's fictional novel Ship of Theseus is published (as reproduced in Doug Dorst's 2013 novel S.)