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.
- British bookseller WHSmith closes the last of its in-store circulating library branches.
- 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
- Caradog Prichard - Un Nos Ola Leuad ("One Moonlit Night")
- 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
- Jun'ichirō Tanizaki - Futen Rojin Nikki ("Diary of a Mad Old Man")
- 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
- Angus Wilson - The Old Men at the Zoo
- Richard Yates - Revolutionary Road
- John Barton - The Hollow Crown (anthology)
- Samuel Beckett
- Spiro Çomora - Karnavalet e Korçës ("Carnival at Korçë")
- Henry Denker - A Far Country
- Max Frisch - Andorra
- Jean Genet - The Screens (Les Paravents)
- 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
Main article: 1961 in poetry
- 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?
- Colin Turnbull - The Forest People
- 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, English fantasy novelist
- January 12 – Simon Russell Beale, Malaysian-born English actor
- January 28 – Arnaldur Indridason, Icelandic writer
- June 9 – Aaron Sorkin, American screenwriter, producer, and playwright
- June 23 – David Leavitt, American novelist
- July 7 – Eric Jerome Dickey, American writer
- August 20 – Greg Egan, Australian science fiction author
- September 13 – Tom Holt, English historical and comic novelist
- November 9 – Jackie Kay, Scottish poet and novelist
- November 14 – Jurga Ivanauskaitė, Lithuanian writer (died 2007)
- November 18 – Steven Moffat, Scottish TV writer
- November 24 – Arundhati Roy, Indian writer and activist
- November – Sarah Holland, English novelist, actress and singer
- December 8 – Ann Coulter, American author
- November 20 – David Mills, American journalist and TV writer (died 2010)
- December 23 – Ezzat el Kamhawi, Egyptian novelist and journalist
- December 30 – Douglas Coupland, Canadian author
- Unknown dates
- January 10 – Dashiell Hammett, American crime writer and screenwriter (lung cancer, born 1894)
- January 21 – Blaise Cendrars (Frédéric-Louis Sauser), Swiss novelist and poet (born 1887)
- January 30 – Dorothy Thompson, American journalist (born 1893)
- March 18 – E. Arnot Robertson, English novelist (born 1903)
- April 22 – Joanna Cannan, English writer of children's pony books and detective novels (born 1896)
- May 26 – William Troy, American writer and teacher (cancer, born 1903)
- June 2 – George S. Kaufman, American dramatist and critic (born 1889)
- July 2 – Ernest Hemingway, American novelist (suicide, born 1899)
- July 12 – Mazo de la Roche, Canadian novelist (born 1879)
- July 17 – Olga Forsh, Russian dramatist, novelist and memoirist (born 1873)
- September 27 – H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), American poet, novelist and memoirist (born 1886)
- October 19 – Mihail Sadoveanu, Romanian novelist (born 1880)
- November 2 – James Thurber, American humorist (born 1894)
- December 7 – Roussan Camille, Haitian poet and journalist (born 1912)
- 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
- Miles Franklin Award: Patrick White, Riders in the Chariot
- 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.
- "History". British Circulating Libraries: 1725-1966. Retrieved 2014-10-25.
- 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)