Taleb Alrefai was born in Kuwait in 1958. He began writing short stories while a student in the 1970s, publishing them in Kuwaiti newspapers. Later, his literary essays, columns, and short stories appeared in various Arabic-language magazines and newspapers. Up until the mid-1990s Alrefai worked mainly as an engineer before moving to the National Council for Culture, Art, and Literature.
He has published six collections of short stories, three novels, one play, and several literary studies. Alrefai became known to a wider Arab readership with his novel The Shadow of the Sun (1988), which deals with the fate of immigrant workers, a theme not often dealt with in Arab literature. His later novels also criticize Kuwaiti socity. In The Scent of the Sea (2002), for which he won the Kuwaiti State Prize for Literature, he tackles thorny issues including sexual abuse in the family, the oppression of women, and extramarital affairs.
Taleb Alrefai lives in Kuwait.