In 1961 he received a scholarship to study abroad and went to France. He enrolled in journalism school in Lille with the intent of making his living as a writer. In 1964 he returned to Greece to do his military service. Three years later, the coup d'état and the installation of the military regime forced him into exile. He returned to France, this time to Paris. He now spends his time in Paris, Athens, and the island Tinos.
In 1995 he won the Prix Medicis, for his novel La Langue Maternelle (Mother Tongue).
His collection of short stories, Papa was awarded the Académie française Prize for Best Short Story Collection, and his novel Avant was awarded the Albert Camus Prize. In 2003, Vassilis Alexakis was awarded the Prix Edouard Glissant.
Les mots étrangers appeared in 2002 and was selected as one of the twenty best books in any genre of that year by the editors of the literary magazine Lire. It was short-listed for two major French literary awards, the Renaudaut Prize and the Interallié Prize.
On October 25, 2007 he was awarded one of France's top fiction awards, the Grand Prix du Roman de l'Academie Francaise, for his novel "Ap. J.C.," which tells the story of a young researcher looking into the history of the monks of Mount Athos in northern Greece.
- 1974: Le Sandwich. Paris: Julliard.
- 1975: Les Girls de City-Boum-Boum. Paris: Julliard.
- 1978: La Tête du chat. Paris: Le Seuil.
- 1978: Mon amour! Città Armoniosa.
- 1985: Contrôle d’Identité. Paris: Le Seuil.
- 1987: Le fils de King Kong. Genf: Les Yeux ouverts.
- 1989: Paris-Athènes. Paris: Le Seuil.
- 1992: Avant. Paris: Le Seuil. (Prix Albert Camus, Prix Charles-Exbrayat, Prix Alexandre-Vialat)
- 1997: Papa. Paris: Fayard. (Erzählung, Prix de la Nouvelle de l’Académie française)
- 1997: L’invention du baiser. Genf: Nomades.
- 1999: Le colin d’Alaska
- 2002: Les mots étrangers. Paris: Stock.
- 1980: Tαλγό. Athenes: Exantas.
- 1995: Ε: Η Μητρική γλώσσα
- 1999: Le cœur de Marguerite. Paris: Stock .
- 2003: Οι ξένες λέξεις. Athenes 2003 im Exantas-Verlag.