Samar Attar was born in Damascus and gained a Licences e`n Lettres in English and Arabic Literature from the University of Damascus, an MA in English Literature from Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada and a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of New York. She has taught at universities in Canada, the USA, Algeria and Australia. Although resident in Australia for some years, she has maintained her Syrian nationality and considers herself a 'writer in exile' and a 'citizen of the world'. In November 1990, she took up a Rockefeller Fellowship at the University of Michigan for nine months.
Dr Attar's works became more widely known in Australia from the mid 1980s after she published in Outrider. Bi-lingual expressions and components of her fiction 'often reflect the separation from social norms endured by those cast in the role of Others'. She has published widely in the field of literary criticism and is a recognized poet. In 1988 Dr Attar published Modern Arabic : The Arabic-European Encounter and Modern Arabic: An Introductory Course for Foreign Students. She also co-authored Teaching of Arabic As a Foreign Language: Issues & Directions (1995). Her book The House on Arnus Square (Al Bayt Fi Sahat 'Arnus), written in 1988 in Arabic and published in translation in 1998, is an autobiographical account of Attar's return to her childhood home after an absence of 20 years.
As a senior lecturer in the Department of Semitic Studies at the University of Sydney until 2002, Dr Attar taught Arabic language and literature. Her research interests include The Arab-European encounter through the ages.