Born in Istanbul in 1931, Talât Sait Halman graduated from Robert College in 1951 and received his master's degree from Columbia University in 1954. For 30 years he was on the faculties of Columbia University, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania and New York University, where he also served as Chairman of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Literatures for 10 years. In 1998, he founded the Department of Turkish Literature at Bilkent University and served as its chairman. He was also Bilkent's Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Letters.

Turkey's first ever Minister of Culture and later its Ambassador for Cultural Affairs, Halman also held positions as Deputy Permanent Representative at the United Nations and as a member of the Board of Directors of PEN American Centre. He was a member of the UNESCO Executive Board for four years. He served as President of the UNICEF Turkish National Committee since 2003 and President of the İKSV Board of Trustees since 2008 until his passing away on 5 December, 2014.

Halman has published 75 books and over 3,000 articles, studies, newspaper columns and essays in English and Turkish. 30 of Halman's books are in English. His vast translations include major literary works from classical and modern Turkish literature. Halman was General Editor of the Journal of Turkish Literature, the first and only scholarly English-language journal devoted in its entirety to Turkish literature. Some of Halman's books have been translated into Chinese, French, German, Hindi, Hebrew, Persian, Russian, Spanish and Urdu. In addition to more than 5,000 poem translations and two books of his own poetry published in English, a work of Halman's collected poems entitled Ümit Harmanı (Harvest of Hope) was released by İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları. Halman has translated the complete sonnets of Shakespeare into Turkish and his last book published before his death was William Shakespeare: Aşk ve Anlatı Şiirleri (Shakespeare's Poems of Love and Narration). With this 4,000 verse book, all of Shakespeare's works have been translated into the Turkish language.

Halman's awards include many literary prizes, honorary doctorates from Boğaziçi University and Ankara University, the UNESCO Medal, Columbia University's Thornton Wilder Prize for Translation, the Most Successful Turkish Scholar in the U.S. Award, and the Distinguished Service Award of the Turkish Academy of Sciences and of the Turkish Foreign Ministry, and Knight Grand Cross (GBE), the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, conferred on him by Queen Elizabeth II.