Istrati was born in Romania six years after it separated from the Ottoman Empire. However, Ottoman culture continued to permeate the newly established nation throughout the author's boyhood. He later lived in Istanbul, then known as Constantinople, which would play a central role in his novel Kyra Kyralina. Upon the novel’s publication in the early 1920’s, Istrati was immediately established as a leading writer in the Modernist pantheon. Istrati appears to be the first Romanian author explicitly depicting a homosexual character in his work.