David Bergen was born on January 14, 1957 in Port Edward, a small fishing village in British Columbia, and later grew up in the small town of Niverville, Manitoba. He went to Bible college in British Columbia and Red River College in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where he studied creative communication. He taught English and Creative Writing at Winnipeg's Kelvin High School until 2002.
Raised as a Mennonite, Bergen has noted that the tendency of the church to stifle questions and criticism affected his decision to write fiction. "Writing is a way of figuring things out," he says. "If you can't ask certain questions in church, maybe you can ask them in fiction."
His debut novel, A Year of Lesser in 1996, was a New York Times Notable Book and winner of the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award. His 2002 novel The Case of Lena S. was a finalist for the Governor General's Award for English language fiction and won the Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award. It was also a finalist for the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award, and the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction.
His 2005 novel The Time in Between won the Scotiabank Giller Prize, received a coveted starred review in the Kirkus Reviews trade magazine, and was recently longlisted for the 2007 IMPAC Award. In 2008 he published his fifth novel, The Retreat, which was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and which won the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award, and the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction. In 2010 he was shortlisted again for the Scotiabank Giller Prize for his sixth novel, The Matter with Morris.
He is also the author of a collection of short fiction, Sitting Opposite My Brother (1993), which was a finalist for the Manitoba Book of the Year.