Preda was born in Teleorman county, in a village called Siliştea-Gumeşti, into a family of peasants. He first studied at school in his home village, then schools in Abrud and Cristur-Odorhei. He moved to Bucharest in 1940 and became a proofreader at Timpul ("Times") magazine.
His first novella was called Calul ("The Horse"). It was written in 1943 and read in Eugen Lovinescu's literary circle, Sburătorul ("The Flier"). It was included in his debut volume of 1948, Întâlnirea din pământuri. ("The Meeting between the Lands"). Between 1943 and 1945 he served in the army, which was to inspire some of his later works.
In 1945 he was hired as a proofreader at România liberă ("Free Romania") newspaper, and beginning with 1952 served as an editor at the cultural magazine Viaţa Românească ("Romanian Life"). His novel Moromeţii, was awarded the State Literature Prize in 1956.
In 1965, he became vice-president of "Uniunea Scriitorilor" (Writers' Union) and in 1970 the director of "Cartea Românească" publishing house, keeping this job until his death. He became a member of the Romanian Academy in 1974.
In 1954 he married Aurora Cornu; they divorced in 1959. He was married to Eta Vexler, who defected to France in the early 1970s. With his third wife, Elena, a worker about 30 years his junior, he had two sons, Nicolae and Alexandru. Preda's novel Delirium (Delirul) is considered to reflect the attempt to review Ion Antonescu's role against the background of re-surging nationalist pride in Communist Romania. Here, Antonescu is painted as a tragic figure, who joined Germans, regarding this as the only way to re-gain Bessarabia. The first edition of the novel quickly sold out.
In 1980, Marin Preda published his last novel, Cel mai iubit dintre pământeni ("The Most Beloved Earthling"), regarded as a violent critique of communism. After a few short weeks on the market, the novel was withdrawn from all public, university, and school libraries and all bookshops. It was not much later, on May 16, 1980, that the novelist died at the Writers' Mansion of Mogoşoaia Palace. The autopsy, which took place 24 hours after his death, showed that his blood alcohol concentration was 3.5 BAC, enough to fall into a coma. The official cause of death was asphixiation.
- 1948 - Întâlnirea din pământuri ("The Meeting of the Lands")
- 1949 - Ana Roşculeţ
- 1952 - Desfăşurarea ("The Unfolding")
- 1955 - Moromeţii ("The Moromete Family")
- 1956 - Ferestre întunecate ("Dark Windows")
- 1959 - Îndrăzneala ("The Daring")
- 1962 - Risipitorii ("The Prodigals")
- 1967 - Moromeţii, second part
- 1968 - Intrusul ("The Intruder")
- 1972 - Imposibila întoarcere ("The Impossible Return")
- 1972 - Marele singuratic ("The Great Loner")
- 1973 - Întâlnirea din pământuri, second edition
- 1975 - Delirul ("The Delirium")
- 1977 - Viaţa ca o pradă ("Life as a Prey")
- 1980 - Cel mai iubit dintre pământeni ("The Most Beloved of Earthlings")
- Ceauşescu and the Securitate: coercion and dissent in Romania, 1965-1989. By Dennis Deletant. p. 161