Maran was born on the boat carrying his parents to Fort-de-France where he lived until the age of seven. After that he went to Gabon, where his father Héménéglide Maran was in the colonial service. After attending boarding school in Bordeaux, France, he joined the French Colonial service in French Equatorial Africa. It was his experience there that was the basis for many of his novels, including Batouala: A True Black Novel, which won the Prix Goncourt.
Jean-Paul Sartre alluded to Maran in his preface to Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth, mocking the French establishment's complacent self-congratulation that they had "on one occasion given the Prix Goncourt to a Negro". His novel Un Homme pareil aux autres is the subject of extensive analysis in the third chapter of Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks.
- La Maison du Bonheur (poetry, 1909)
- La Vie Intérieure (poetry, 1912)
- Batouala (novel, 1921)
- Le Livre de la Brousse (novel, 1934)
- Un Homme pareil aux autres (novel, 1947)
- Cameron, Keith (1985). René Maran. Boston: Twayne Publishers. ISBN 0-8057-6604-9.
- Cook, Mercer (October 1940). "The Literary Contribution of the French West Indian". The Journal of Negro History (Vol. 25, No. 4): 520–530. doi:10.2307/2715140. ISSN 0022-2992. JSTOR 2715140.
- Ojo-Ade, Femi. René Maran, the Black Frenchman: A Bio-Critical Study, Three Continents Press, Washington, 1984, 265 p.
- Peabody, Sue; Tyler Stovall, eds. (2003). The Color of Liberty: Histories of Race in France. Durham: Duke University Press. ISBN 0-8223-3130-6.
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