Born Nathalie Tcherniak, she was brought up in Paris by Russian parents and graduated with a licence from the University of Paris-Sorbonne. She trained as a lawyer and was a member of the bar from 1926 to 1941 before dedicating herself to being a full-time writer. In 1925, she married Raymond Sarraute, also a lawyer, and the couple had three children. Nathalie Sarraute went into hiding to survive the German Occupation of her country during World War II. Later she became a leading member of the French experimental style "new novel" movement along with Alain Robbe-Grillet, Claude Simon, and Marguerite Duras.