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The year 1959 in literature involved some significant events and new books.
- April 30 - Theatrical première of Bertolt Brecht's Saint Joan of the Stockyards, originally performed on radio in 1932.
- May 7 - Scientist and novelist C. P. Snow delivers an influential Rede Lecture on The Two Cultures, concerning a perceived breakdown of communication between the sciences and humanities, in the Senate House, University of Cambridge. It is subsequently published as The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution.
- May 28 - The Mermaid Theatre opens in the City of London.
- July 21 - D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover is one of a trio of books (the others being Tropic of Cancer and Fanny Hill), the ban on which is fought and overturned in court with assistance by lawyer Charles Rembar in the United States; the book, published in 1928, legally circulates in the U.S. after a 31-year obscenity ban.
- October 29 - First appearance of Astérix the Gaul, in the first regular issue of the comic magazine Pilote.
- November 11 - Release in the United States of the short film Pull My Daisy, adapted from his unperformed play Beat Generation and narrated by Jack Kerouac and starring poets Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky and Gregory Corso.
- Aldous Huxley turns down the offer of a knighthood.
- Colin Dexter begins teaching at Corby Grammar School.
- Frank Herbert begins researching Dune.
- Frederik Pohl becomes an editor of the American science fiction magazine Galaxy.
- Marcel Achard is elected to the Académie française.
- Literature Wales is established as The Academi.
- The first butoh performance piece, Kinjiki by Tatsumi Hijikata, premieres at a dance festival in Japan. It is based on the novel of the same name (Forbidden Colors) by Yukio Mishima and explores the taboos of male homosexuality and paedophilia.
- January 8 – Ovidiu Pecican, Romanian writer and poet
- January 9 – Rigoberta Menchú, Guatemalan writer and Nobel Peace Prize winner
- January 20 – R. A. Salvatore, American science fiction and fantasy author
- February 2 – Jari Tervo, Finnish author
- March 11 – Dejan Stojanović, Serbian-American poet and essayist
- March 15 – Ben Okri, Nigerian poet and novelist
- March 18 – Frédéric-Yves Jeannet, French-born writer in French and Spanish
- April 15 – Emma Thompson, English actress and screenwriter
- April 30 – Alessandro Barbero, Italian historian, novelist and essayist
- c. May 1 – Yasmina Reza, French novelist and dramatist
- May 3 – Ben Elton, English comedian, novelist and screenwriter
- June 13 – Maurice G. Dantec, French science fiction author
- August 27 – Jeanette Winterson, English novelist
- September 9 – Matti Rönkä, Finnish TV journalist and novelist
- September 29 – Benjamin Sehene, Rwandan writer
- October 1 – Brian P. Cleary, American humorist, author and poet
- October 31 – Neal Stephenson, American science fiction writer
- December 20 – Sandra Cisneros, Mexican-born American author
- January 3 – Edwin Muir, Scottish poet, novelist and translator (born 1887)
- January 29 – Pauline Smith, South African novelist (born 1882)
- February 20 – Laurence Housman, English playwright and writer (born 1865)
- February 22 – Percy F. Westerman, English children's author (born 1876)
- February 23 – Luis Palés Matos, Puerto Rican poet (heart failure (born 1898)
- February 28 – Maxwell Anderson, American playwright and film writer (born 1888)
- March 4 – W. W. Greg, English literary scholar (born 1875)
- March 17 – Galaktion Tabidze (Galaktioni), Georgian poet (suicide, born 1892)
- March 26 – Raymond Chandler, American crime writer (born 1888)
- April 14 – Julien Josephson, American screenwriter (born 1881)
- May 18 – Apsley Cherry-Garrard, English memoirist and explorer (born 1886)
- May 20 – Alfred Schütz, Austrian philosopher and sociologist (born 1899)
- June 1 – Sax Rohmer (Arthur Henry Ward), English novelist (born 1883)
- June 23 – Boris Vian, French novelist (heart attack, born 1920)
- June 30 – José Vasconcelos, Mexican poet and political writer (born 1882)
- July 3 – Johan Bojer, Norwegian novelist (born 1872)
- July 26 – Manuel Altolaguirre, Spanish poet, editor and publisher (car accident, born 1905)
- August 8 – Emil František Burian, Czech poet, journalist and playwright (born 1904)
- September 18 – Benjamin Péret, poet and Surrealist (born 1899)
- Carnegie Medal for children's literature: Rosemary Sutcliff, The Lantern Bearers
- Hugo Award for Best Novel: James Blish, A Case of Conscience
- James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction: Morris West, The Devil's Advocate
- James Tait Black Memorial Prize for biography: Christopher Hassall, Edward Marsh
- Miles Franklin Award: Vance Palmer, The Big Fellow
- Newbery Medal for children's literature: Elizabeth George Speare, The Witch of Blackbird Pond
- Nobel Prize for literature: Salvatore Quasimodo
- Premio Nadal: Ana María Matute, Primera memoria
- Pulitzer Prize for Drama: Archibald MacLeish, J. B.
- Pulitzer Prize for Fiction: Robert Lewis Taylor, The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters
- Pulitzer Prize for Poetry: Stanley Kunitz, Selected Poems 1928-1958
- Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry: Francis Cornford