Louis Awad was born in the village of Sharuna in the district of Minya. He studied literature at Cairo University, Oxford University, and Princeton University. As chairman of the faculty of letters at Cairo University, Awad inaugurated in Egypt the modern study of literary criticism based on scientific principles. From 1945 to 1950 he joined with other writers who drew from Marxism and other sources in a call for the total reform of Egyptian society. His novel alAnqa (the Phoenix) expresses this orientation. In a volume of poetry, Plutoland, he introduced free verse forms to Egyptian literature and presented a scathing attack on traditionalism. Awad's unwavering critical stance continued after the 1952 revolution. As a consequence, he was forced to resign his position at Cairo University in 1954.
In 1960 Awad became the literary editor at the newspaper al-Ahram. He published a devastating critique of higher education in Egypt in 1964, arguing that students wished to be instructed, rather than to engage in independent study and research. Awad's writings in al-Ahram made him one of the leading opinion-makers in the Arab world. From the mid-1970s through the 1980s he served as a faculty adviser at the Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, developing a strong following among graduate students there.