Danièle Sallenave was born in Angers, France, the daughter of two teachers. She graduated from the Ecole Normale Supérieure and has been a professor of Classics at the Ecole since 1964. She also taught literature and film history at the University Paris X-Nanterre from 1968 to 2001. She has worked as a journalist and columnist for leading French newspapers and magazines such as Le Monde and Marianne, and co-founded the magazine Digraphe in 1974.
She's the author of more than 30 books, including novels, essays, interviews, and travel writing, and has also written plays. She has translated works by Italo Calvino and Pier Paolo Pasolino from Italian into French. Her work has won prestigious awards, including the Prix Renaudot in 1980 for Les Portes de Gubbio, the Grand Prix Jean Giono for La Fraga (2004), and the Grand Prize for Lifetime Achievement of the Académie française in 2005 for her entire oeuvre. In 2011, she was elected a member of the Académie française. She also serves as a jury member of the Prix Femina and several others literary prizes.