Lagos: Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe, the revered “father of modern African literature”, has died aged 82, his family said on Friday.
Best known internationally for his novel “Things Fall Apart”, which depicts the collision between British rule and traditional Igbo culture in his native southeast Nigeria, Achebe was also a strong critic of graft and misrule in his country.
“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,” his family said in a statement.
Local media reported that he died in a hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.
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.
A statement from the Mandela Foundation in South Africa said he passed away 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, spokesman for Nigeria’s Anambra state, where Achebe was born.
Apart from criticising misrule in Nigeria, Achebe also strongly backed his native Biafra, which declared independence from the republic 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 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.