Chinua Achebe, 'father of modern African literature,' dies at 82
Posted Friday, March 22 2013 at 13:20
Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe, the revered author of "Things Fall Apart" who has been called the father of modern African literature, has died aged 82, his publisher said on Friday.
"I'm afraid it has been sadly confirmed now," Mari Yamazaki, spokeswoman for Penguin in London, told AFP in an email.
Local media reported that he died in a hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.
A statement from the Mandela Foundation in South Africa said he died on Thursday and quoted Nelson Mandela as referring to him as a writer "in whose company the prison walls fell down."
Further details were not yet available, though Yamazaki indicated the family intended to issue a statement later.
Achebe was best known internationally for his 1958 novel "Things Fall Apart," which told of the collision between British colonial rule and traditional Igbo culture in his native southeastern Nigeria.
But he had also been a strident critic of corruption and misrule in Nigeria, where endemic graft has robbed Africa's biggest oil producer of massive sums of public money.
He also strongly backed his native Biafra in Nigeria's 1967-1970 civil war which killed around one million people -- the subject of a long-awaited memoir he published last year.
In 2011, Achebe rejected a Nigerian government offer to honour him with one of the nation's highest awards -- at least the second time he had done so.
He had lived and worked as a professor in the United States in recent years, most recently at Brown University in Rhode Island. A 1990 car accident left him in a wheelchair and limited his travel.
"'Things Fall Apart' turned the west's perception of Africa on its head - a perception that until then had been based solely on the views of white colonialists, views that were at best anthropological, at worst, to adopt Achebe's famous savaging of Joseph Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness', 'thoroughgoingly racist'," the London Guardian wrote in 2007.
South African writer and Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer called Achebe the "father of modern African literature" in 2007, when she was among the judges to award him the Man Booker International prize for fiction.
"Just as we read Shakespeare, it is not possible for any English student to graduate without" reading Achebe, Adeyemi Daramola, head of the University of Lagos English department, told AFP recently.
While he was widely lauded worldwide, Achebe never won the Nobel prize for literature, unlike his fellow Nigerian Wole Soyinka, who became the first African Nobel literature laureate in 1986.
Achebe was born in 1930 the fifth of six children in Ogidi in southeastern Nigeria, where his Igbo ethnic group dominates, and grew up at a time of Christian missionaries and British colonialism.