Hoda Barakat was born in 1952 and grew up in Beirut. She studied French language and literature at the Lebanese University until 1975. She then began work on her doctorate in Paris but decided to return home at the start of the Lebanese Civil War and worked as a journalist, translator, and teacher. She moved back to Paris in 1989.
She published her first volume of short prose in 1985 under the title »Zaʼirat« (tr: Women Visitors). Despite a wide array of themes, most of the stories revolve around the daily routines in the life of women.Her novels often deal with the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990) and with the perspective of male outsiders in Lebanese society. »Hajar al-dahk« (1990; Eng: »The Stone of Laughter«, 1995) is about a young, attractive man named Khalil, who is experiencing an identity crisis and suppresses his homosexual tendencies, which constantly reappear in his dreams. Khalil prefers an atmosphere of harmony and safety and is therefore not involved in politics. When the war breaks out, his feminine characteristics stand in stark opposition to the masculinity of the surrounding violence. Throughout the book, Khalil transforms into the epitome of masculinity and rage, progressively moving away from the feminine figure of the first person narrative and its critical perspective on war. »Ahl al-hawa« (1993; tr: People of Love) is the monologue of a man who allegedly killed his beloved and whose thoughts also question the love and violence between masculinity and femininity. The novel »Barid al-lail« (2019; tr: The Night Post) reflects the experiences of flight and exile in a world of upheaval in the form of letters that have been become just as lost as their misplaced authors. Barakat also reflects on the complexity of these refugee movements: »They board boats of death and the world doesn’t want to look at them, other than as an unwanted mass, or a virus threatening civilisation. […] This doesn’t mean that I want Western countries to fling open their borders or to look on those fleeing as angels. I just wanted to listen to the lives of wanderers through the desert of this world.«
Barakat’s works have been translated from Arabic into around twenty languages, including English, French, Italian, and Spanish. She has been awarded the Al Naqid Prize, the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature, the Al Owais Award for literature, the Chevalier de lʼOrdre des Arts et des Lettres, the Chevalier de lʼOrdre du Mérite National, and the International Prize for Arabic Fiction/Booker. She was a fellow at the Nantes Institute for Advanced Study, and at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. She was also a visiting scholar in Middle Eastern Studies programs at many American universities. Barakat is now member of the prestigious Montgomery Fellowship at Dartmouth. She lives in Paris.