African Literary Pioneer, Chinua Achebe, Dies at 82

Chinua Achebe

African Literary Pioneer, Chinua Achebe, Dies at 82

Pioneering Nigerian novelist and poet Chinua Achebe died at age 82, publisher Penguin Books announced Friday.

Published March 22, 2013

Pioneering Nigerian novelist and poet Chinua Achebe died at age 82, publisher Penguin Books announced Friday.

Achebe’s agent, Andrew Wylie, said the author died in Boston following a brief illness.

Called the grandfather of contemporary African fiction, Achebe’s success as an author opened Western doors for a countless number of writers from the African continent. He has penned more than 30 books and was awarded the Man Booker International Prize for Fiction in 2007.

"It would be impossible to say how Things Fall Apart influenced African writing," the African scholar Kwame Anthony Appiah said, according to the Associated Press. "It would be like asking how Shakespeare influenced English writers or Pushkin influenced Russians. Achebe didn't only play the game, he invented it."

Achebe is most widely known for his novelThings Fall Apart, which was published in 1958 to instant acclaim and tells the story of a farmer who struggles to preserve his culture amid the impending influence of British colonialists. The book’s fictional yet critical portrayal of colonialism helped spark international awareness about the lasting effects of the institution.

Since its release,Things Fall Apart has sold more than 8 million copies worldwide and has been translated into more than 50 languages.

In the late 1960s, after the start of Nigeria’s Biafran War, Achebe, a member of Nigeria’s Igbo tribe, aligned himself with the movement to create an independent state of Biafra in Southeastern Nigeria, becoming a vocal and well-known ambassador for the cause. In 2012, he published a memoir of the Biafran War called There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra.

Achebe attended the University of Ibadan, and taught briefly before joining the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation as director of external broadcasting from 1961–1966.

During the 1980s, Achebe taught literature at the University of Kenya and the University of Nigeria. Then, in 1990, after a car accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down, Achebe moved to the U.S. where he taught at Bard College and Brown University.

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(Photo: AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, File)

Written by Naeesa Aziz


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