Boualem Sansal was born in Algiers, Algeria, in 1949. Trained as an engineer with a doctorate in economics, he began writing novels at the age of fifty after retiring from his job as a high-ranking official in the Algerian government. The assassination of President Boudiaf in 1992 and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Algeria inspired him to write about his country. Sansal writes in French, and his work has won top literary awards in France, among them the Prix du Premier Roman in 1999 for his debut novel, Le serment des Barbares.
Sansal's latest novel, Le village de l'Allemand ou le journal des frères Schiller, is the story of two Algerian brothers who burrow into the past and discover that their father had been a Nazi officer who fled to Algeria after the war. Le Village de l'allemand is the first of Sansal's novels to be translated into English, and was published in the US as The German Mujahid and in the UK as An Unfinished Business.
Sansal continues to live with his wife and two daughters in Algeria despite the controversy his books have aroused in his homeland. Since the publication of Poste restante: Alger. Lettre de colère et d'espoir à mes compatriotes in 2006, Sansal's books have been banned in Algeria.
On 16 October 2011 Sansal will receive the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, awarded for his efforts on behalf of democracy in North Africa.