Often referred to as the greatest living North African writer, he won the Prix du Roman Arabe in 2010 for Les Figuiers de Barbarie. His literary works include Timimoun, Les Funérailles, and Le Démantèlement.
He fought in the Algerian War of Independence and later studied philosophy at the Sorbonne.
He wrote the screenplay for the 1975 film, Chronicle of the Years of Fire. The film won the prestigious Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.
He married a French woman. Born in Algeria, he later lived in France and Morocco.
His complex writing style has often been compared to that of William Faulkner.