Farhi was born in Ankara, Turkey, in 1935. Farhi received B.A. in Humanities from Robert Academy, Istanbul, in 1954. He came to the UK the same year and trained at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, graduating in 1956 and settling in London. After a brief career as an actor, he took up writing.
Farhi has written several novels, including Children of the Rainbow and Journey through the Wilderness. Children of the Rainbow has received two prizes: the “Amico Rom” from the Associazione Them Romano of Italy (2002); and the “Special” prize from the Roma Academy of Culture and Sciences in Germany (2003). The French edition of Young Turk (Jeunes Turcs) received the 2007 Alberto Benveniste Prize for Literature. His poems have appeared in many British, US and European publications and in the anthology of 20th century Jewish poets, Voices Within the Ark (Avon, US, 1979). He has also published short stories in anthologies and magazines in the UK, the US and Poland. He has written many television scripts; a film, The Primitives; and a stage play, From The Ashes of Thebes.
Farhi’s essay, “The Courage To Forget”, appeared in Index on Censorship (Vol.24, No.2, 2005). “God Save Us From Religion”, is included in the collection, Free Expression is No Offence (edited by Lisa Appignanesi, published by Penguin Books, 2005). “All History is the History of Migration”, given at the “Know Your Place?” Conference in November 2005, was also published by Index on Censorship in 2006. Farhi’s works have been translated into Arabic, Dutch, French, Galician, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Polish, Romanian and Turkish.
Farhi has donated part of his personal library, consisting over 19.000 books, to Boğaziçi University.
For over twenty-five years Farhi has campaigned, from the ranks of English PEN Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC), for writers persecuted and/or imprisoned by repressive regimes. Between 1994-1997, he served as Chair of the English WiPC; and between 1997–2000, as Chair of International P.E.N.’s Writers in Prison Committee. In November 2001, he was elected a Vice President of International PEN. He was appointed as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in June 16, 2001, in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List, for services to literature. He is a Fellow of both The Royal Society of Literature and The Royal Geographical Society.
Farhi also briefly worked on the BBC science fiction adventure TV series Doctor Who during its early stages of production in 1963.