The Nigerian novelist and poet Chinua Achebe, who first made his mark with 1958 novel Things Fall Apart, has died aged 82.
News reports from Nigeria this morning suggest he died at a hospital in Boston, Massachusetts of an undisclosed ailment.
Achebe’s British publisher Penguin confirmed his death to The Independent of England this morning.
Simon Winder, publishing director at Penguin, described him as “the greatest of African writers,” adding “we are all desolate to hear of his death.”
Achebe’s agent also confirmed his death.
A spokesman for the Anambra state governor, Peter Obi, told the BBC southeastern Nigeria was in mourning for its “illustrious son.”
Sources quoted in the Premium Times said he had been ill for some time and was hospitalized earlier this week. The unnamed source declined to release further information but said the family would issue a statement later today.
Right up until his death, Achebe worked as Professor of Africana Studies at Brown University and was the David and Marianna University Professor. Attempts by the The Independent to contact Brown University for comment have not been successful.
Achebe is known as the “father of modern African literature.” and made his name writing about the history of Nigeria. Things Fall Apart, set amid 1890s Nigeria and the influx of Christian missionaries, is renowned the world over, has been translated into 50 languages and has sold more than 10 million copies.
The novel takes its title from WB Yeats’s 1919 poem, “The Second Coming.” It reads, in part: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. . .”
In 2007 Achebe won the Man Booker International Prize for his “overall contribution to fiction on the world stage.”
Nelson Mandela called him “the writer in whose company the prison walls came down,” and credited him as the author who “brought Africa to the rest of the world.”
Achebe’s other novels include Arrow of God (1964); A Man of the People (1966) and Anthills of the Savannah (1987). He has also published four children’s books (including Chike and the River and How the Leopard Got His Claws), short stories and poetry in English and Igbo.
Read more: TheIndependent