Henri Troyat was born Lev Aslanovich Tarasov to a wealthy family in Moscow. His family fled the city and then their homeland due to the Russian Revolution and its aftermath. After travelling for several years, they eventually settled in the Parisian suburb of Neuilly. Henri attended the Lycée Pasteur and later earned a law degree at the Sorbonne. He became a civil servant in the prefecture of the Seine and also began writing. His first novel, Faux Jour (Deceptive Light) appeared in 1935 and won the Prix du Roman Populiste. By age 27, in 1938, he won both the Prix Max Barthou de l'Académie Française and the Prix Goncourt for his novel L'Araigne (The Web). He published more than 100 books, including novels and acclaimed biographies of writers and political figures such as Anton Chekhov, Catherine the Great, Rasputin, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Ivan the Terrible, and Leo Tolstoy, becoming one of France's first bestselling authors. He was elected a member of the Académie française in 1959.