Born in Tzfat, Moshe Shamir grew up in Tel Aviv and was active in Hashomer Hatza'ir. For six years he lived on Kibbutz Mishmar Ha'emek, affiliated with the movement, before returning to live in Tel Aviv. After the Six Day War, Shamir's left wing political views were radically transformed, and he became a strong proponent of a "Greater Land of Israel" ideology. He was elected to the Knesset as a member of the Likud from 1977-1981, but he left the party over the decision to return the Sinai to Egypt, and was one of the founders of the right-wing "Tehiya" party.
Shamir's literary career began as the editor of "Bamahaneh," the underground weekly of the Haganah and later the official publication of the IDF. He went on to write in many genres, including fiction, historical fiction, drama, children's literature, poetry, essays, and literary criticism. For his prolific career and major contribution to Israeli literature he was awarded the Israel Prize in 1988.
Shamir's work directly tackles issues of modern Israeli society through various stages. His early fiction, written immediately before and after the establishment of the State, focuses on the pioneering spirit that was felt essential to realizing the Zionist dream. The hero of his 1947 novel He Walked the Fields, for example, is the strong native-born kibbutznik who struggles with issues of family, society, and the army as he demonstrates his dedication to his country. Shamir's highly laudatory stance towards the young, idealistic Israeli and Israeli society is characteristic of his early work.
Shamir's later work becomes both more questioning and more critical of Israeli norms. His historical novels, written in the 1950s, are metaphors for modern problems of leadership as well as character studies of individuals such as Alexander Yannai of the Hasmonean era and King David. Other contemporary and later works dwell on problems of class and social structure in Israel, issues in kibbutz life, and an emptiness of Israeli values. Among his most famous works are The Frontier; (1966) which considers a moral decline of Israeli values in the 1960's, and the trilogy Far from Pearls; (1973-1992), which deals with Jewish life in Eastern Europe in the twentieth century. Both for the volume of his work and for its direct confrontation with issues of Israeli society, Shamir is considered one of the most important writers of Israeli literature.