Basara grew up in Užice, attended the Gymnasium of the town and graduated with maturity diploma, then he began studying at the Philological Faculty of the University of Belgrade but left the faculty after two semesters without graduation in 1976. The young man started his career as freelance writer and became editor of the literary journals Književna reč (1983–86) and Međaj (1989); many other journals, newspapers and magazines published numerous contributions to literary and cultural-philosophical topics of the author in recent decades, he writes for the column Famous (Famozo) of Danas since 2009. He is the author of more than forty literary works, including novels, short story collections, essays, he is considered to be one of the most important writers of contemporary Serbian literature, and one of the most successful contemporary Serbian authors in the international book market. His complete work is already including one or several editions in Bulgarian, German, English, French, Italian, Dutch, Romanian, Slovenian, Spanish and Hungarian translation. He received the NIN Prize 2006 for the novel The Rise and Fall of Parkinson's Disease (Uspon i pad Parkinsonove bolesti) and the Isidora Sekulić Award 2015 for his novel Angel of Assassination (Anđeo atentata). Basara wrote the screenplay for Boomerang and his play Hamlet Remake (Hamlet rimejk) premiered at National Theatre Niš in 2001, his seconds-long guest appearance in the role as drug addict in the film Munje! is an amusing edge note of his artistic biography. Five works have already been published in English translation.
Basara was the ambassador of FR Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) in Cyprus from 2001 to 2005. The artist is current member of the Democratic Party (DS) but had changed his party affiliation in the past for several times and was temporary member of the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) as well as Christian Democratic Party (DHSS). In any case, the author takes a clear and unambiguous position in a political sense: he calls in question any form of political extremism in his country, and dismantles it into its absurd components in literary way. The titles of the novel Mein Kampf: burleska (allusion to Mein Kampf) and the collection of essays Vučji brlog (Little Wolf's Lair; not to be confused with Wolf's Lair) are provocative confrontations to related topics of Serbian extremist self-images.
The writer is also signatory of the Declaration on the Common Language of the Croats, Serbs, Bosniaks and Montenegrins within the project Languages and Nationalisms (Jezici i nacionalizmi). The declaration is against political separation of four Serbo-Croatian standard variants that leads to a series of negative social, cultural and political phenomena in which linguistic expression is enforced as a criterion of ethno-national affiliation and as a means of political loyalty in successor states of Yugoslavia.
Dobrila Basara, his mother, grew up as an orphan under the care of Svetislav Veizović and his family, who was arrested, charged and shot by Partisans under pretext during the time of the Republic of Užice in 1941. The mother baptized her son in honor and in memory of this man by his given name, who was rehabilitated as an innocent victim in 2013 only. Svetislav Basara is the father of two children (daughter Tara and son Relja) and was married to Branislav Crnčević's daughter Vida, who is also the mother of the children, and his second residence is in Beška.
- Serbian editions
- Priče u nestajanju (1982)
- Peking by Night (1985)
- Kinesko pismo (Chinese Letter, 1985)
- Napuklo ogledalo (1986)
- Na ivici (1987)
- Fama o biciklistima (The Cyclist Conspiracy, 1987)
- Fenomeni (1989)
- Na Gralovom tragu (In Search of the Grail, 1990)
- Mongolski bedeker (Mongolian Travel Guide, 1992)
- Tamna strana meseca (1992)
- Izabrane priče (1994)
- De bello civili (1993)
- Drvo istorije (1995)
- Ukleta zemlja (1995)
- Virtualna kabala (1996)
- Looney Tunes (1997)
- Sveta mast (1998)
- Vučji brlog (1998)
- Ideologija heliocentrizma (1999)
- Mašine iluzija (2000)
- Kratkodnevnica (2000)
- Džon B. Malkovič (2001)
- Bumerang (2001)
- Oksimoron (2001)
- Srce Zemlje (2004)
- Fantomski bol (2005)
- Uspon i pad Parkinsonove bolesti, (2006)
- Izgubljen u samoposluzi (2008)
- Majmunopisanije (2008)
- Dnevnik Marte Koen (2008)
- Nova Stradija (2009)
- Fundamentalizam debiliteta (2009)
- Na gralovom tragu (2010)
- Eros, giros i Tanatos (2010)
- Početak bune protiv dahija (2010)
- Tajna istorija Bajine Bašte (2010)
- Mein Kampf (2011; allusion to Mein Kampf)
- Dugovečnost (2012)
- Gnusoba (2013)
- Tušta i tma (2014), with Miljenko Jergović
- Yugonostalghia (2015)
- Anđeo atentata (2015)
- Drugi krug (2015), with Miljenko Jergović
- Očaj od nane (2016)
- Andrićeva lestvica užasa (2016)
- Pušači crvenog bana (2017)
- Nova srpska trilogija (2017)
- Atlas pseudomitologije (2018)
- English editions
- Chinese Letter, Dalkey Archive Press, London 2004, ISBN 978-1-56478-374-5.
- The Cyclist Conspiracy, Open Letter Rochester, Rochester 2012,
ISBN 978-1-934824-58-0, (First English edition, Geopoetika, Belgrade 2009).
- Fata Morgana : a compendium of short fiction, Dalkey Archive Press, Victoria 2015,
- In Search of the Grail, Dalkey Archive Press, Victoria 2017,
- The Mongolian Travel Guide, Dalkey Archive Press, McLean 2018,
- NIN Award 2006 for Rise and Fall of Parkinson's Disease
- Biljana Jovanović Award 2015 for Angel of Assassination (Archduke is first-person narrator)
- Isidora Sekulić Award 2015 for Angel of Assassination
- Biography in: Ko je ko u Srbiji '96: leksikon, Bibliofon, Belgrade 1996 at WBIS, retrieved on 2018-11-09.
- English biography, Festival Étonnants-Voyageurs Saint-Malo, retrieved 2018-11-19.
- Production data Boomerang, Film Center Serbia, retrieved 2018-11-10.
- Basara's guest appearance in Munje!, YouTube, retrieved 2018-11-11.
- Ličnost Danas: Svetislav Basara (Personality Today: Svetislav Basara), Danas, retrieved 2018-11-09.
- Derk, Denis (28 March 2017). "Donosi se Deklaracija o zajedničkom jeziku Hrvata, Srba, Bošnjaka i Crnogoraca" [A Declaration on the Common Language of Croats, Serbs, Bosniaks and Montenegrins is About to Appear] (in Serbo-Croatian). Zagreb: Večernji list. pp. 6–7. ISSN 0350-5006. Archived from the original on 29 March 2017. Retrieved 5 June 2019.
- Jezici i nacionalizmi, official website, retrieved on 2018-08-16.
- Rehabilitovani Basarini preci (Rehabilitation of Basara's Ancestors), Blic, retrieved 2018-11-10.
- About Vida Crnčević Basara, Dereta, retrieved 2018-11-11.
- English review, Eurozine, retrieved 2018-11-12.
- Discussion of Novel Chinese Letter
- Chinese Letter, Kirkus Reviews, retrieved 2018-11-19.
- Review, World Literature Today, retrieved 2018-11-09.
- Review, Publishers Weekly, retrieved 2018-11-09.
- Review, Complete Review, retrieved 2018-11-10.