He was born on 1 May 1900 in Warsaw into an assimilated Jewish family which had interests in Polish literature and drama. After a brief service with the Polish Army he graduated from the Faculty of Philology of the Warsaw University. In 1919 he was among the young poets to proclaim the advent of new, futuristic poetry. The following year he published the first set of his poems, which gained much popularity among the supporters of the new trends in literature of the epoch. Until 1922 he was one of the creators of the Nowa Sztuka ("New Art") monthly, and then Almanachy Nowej Sztuki and Miesięcznik literacki. Initially a Communist, until 1931 he was also one of the main journalists of the Marxist Tygodnik literacki. Until the outbreak of World War II he was also the literary director of Gebethner i Wolff, the biggest and the most renown Polish printing house of the time.
After the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939 he moved to Lwów, then under Soviet occupation. Despite his sympathy for Communism, he was arrested by the NKVD and, together with his wife Paulina (usually called Ola) and his 9-year-old son Andrzej, exiled to Kazakhstan. Set free in 1946, he was allowed to return to Poland. He became one of the chiefs of the Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy. However, his seven years spent in the Soviet Union cured his Communist sympathies and Wat was considered not reliable enough by the Soviet-sponsored Communist authorities of Poland to allow him to publish his own works. Instead, he devoted most of his time to translating of several classical pieces of English, French, German and Russian literature to Polish. In 1959 he emigrated to France and settled in Paris. He died on 29 July 1967 in Antony.
Portions of Wat's literary archive, including the audio recordings of interviews with Czesław Miłosz that were edited into Moj Wiek (translated into English by Richard Lourie as My Century), are held at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
- 1927. Bezrobotny Lucyfer. Warsaw: F. Hoesick.
- 1957. Wiersze. Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie.
- 1977. Moj Wiek: Pamiętnik Mówiony. London: Polonia.
- 1977. Mediterranean Poems. Edited & translated by Czesław Miłosz. Ann Arbor: Ardis.
- 1988. My Century: The odyssey of a Polish intellectual. Edited and translated by Richard Lourie. Berkeley: University of California Press.
- 1989. With the skin: Poems of Aleksander Wat. Translated and edited by Czesław Miłosz and Leonard Nathan. New York: Ecco Press.
- 1990. Lucifer unemployed. Translated by Lillian Vallee. Evanstan, Illinois: Northwestern University Press.
- Venclova, Tomas. 1996. Aleksander Wat: Life of an Iconoclast