Chinua Achebe: Nigerian Author Dies Aged 82

Chinua Achebe: Nigerian Author Dies Aged 82

Chinua Achebe, who was best known for his novel Things Fall Apart, which depicts the collision between British rule and traditional Igbo culture in his native Nigeria, has died aged 82.

According to local reports, Achebe died in a hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, where he had been living and working as a professor in recent years.

His family said: "One of the great literary voices of his time, he was also a beloved husband, father, uncle and grandfather, whose wisdom and courage are an inspiration to all who knew him."

A car accident in 1990 left the author in a wheelchair and limited his travel.

A statement from the Mandela Foundation in South Africa said he passed away on Thursday and quoted Nelson Mandela as referring to him as a writer "in whose company the prison walls fell down".

"The world has lost one of its finest writers and Africa has lost a literary gem," said Mike Udah, a spokesman for Nigeria's Anambra state, where Achebe was born.

Apart from criticising misrule in Nigeria, Achebe also strongly backed the secessionist state of Biafra, which declared independence from Nigeria in 1967, sparking a civil war that killed around one million people and only ended in 1970.

The conflict was the subject of a long-awaited memoir he published last year, titled There Was A Country: A Personal History Of Biafra.

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.

South African writer and Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer called the author the "father of modern African literature" in 2007, when she was among the judges to award him the Man Booker International Prize for fiction.

But while he was widely lauded worldwide, Achebe never won the Nobel prize for literature, unlike fellow Nigerian author Wole Soyinka, who became the first African Nobel literature laureate in 1986.

Achebe was born the fifth of six children in 1930 in Ogidi in southeastern Nigeria, where his Igbo ethnic group dominated, and he grew up at a time of Christian missionaries and British colonialism.

In an interview with The Paris Review, Achebe said that as his reading evolved, he slowly became aware of how books had cast Africans as savages.

"There is that great proverb that until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter," he said.

"That did not come to me until much later. Once I realised that, I had to be a writer."