The son of a Romanian father and a French mother, born in Slatina, Romania, he spent most of his childhood in France but in his early teenage years returned to Romania, where he qualified as a teacher of French and married in 1936. In 1928, at the University of Bucharest, he met Emile Cioran and Mircea Eliade, and the three became lifelong friends.
He returned to France in 1938 to complete his doctoral thesis. Caught by the outbreak of war in 1939, he remained there, eventually becoming a gifted writer. He was made a member of the Académie française in 1970.
He died at 81 and is buried in the Cimetière du Montparnasse, Paris, France.
His works include:
- The Bald Soprano (1950)
- The Lesson (1951)
- The Chairs (1952)
- Rhinoceros (1959)
- The Killer (1958)
- Exit the King (1962)
- A Stroll in the Air (1963)
- Hunger and Thirst (1964)
- Notes and Counternotes (1962)
- Fragments of a Journal (1966)
- Le Solitaire (1973)
- Journeys among the Dead (1980)