An Indian-born novelist, poet, and travel writer, he is best known for his Alexandria Quartet, which includes the novels Justine (1957), Balthazar (1958), Mountolive (1958), and Clea (1960). Between 1931 and 1980, he also published nearly a dozen poetry collections, such as A Private Country (1943) and Cities, Plains and People (1946).
He failed his entrance exams for university study but nevertheless published his first collection of poetry at age nineteen. His first novel, Pied Piper of Lovers, was published in 1935.
He named his second daughter Sappho after the famous Greek poet.
He was born in British-controlled India, and he died at the age of seventy-eight in France. He married four times; his first and second marriages (to Nancy Isobel Myers and Eve Cohen) produced a total of two daughters.
During the 1930s, he collaborated with Anais Nin on several literary works.