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Africa’s Leading Novelist Chinua Achebe Dies At 82

Professor Chinua Achebe, one of the world’s most celebrated writers and author of the classic novel Things Fall Apart, is dead.

Professor Chinua Achebe, one of the world’s most celebrated writers and author of the classic novel Things Fall Apart, is dead.

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SaharaReporters learned that Achebe, who was the David and Mariana Fisher Professor of Literature at Brown University, died last night in a hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. Professor Achebe had been sick for some time. He was 82 years old.

Prof. Achebe's literary agent, Andrew Wylie and his publisher, Scott Myers confirmed his death.

A friend of the Achebe family told SaharaReporters that the family would be making a formal announcement after consulting with others, including Professor Achebe’s publishers and Brown University.

Achebe had been wheel chair-bound since sustaining serious injuries in a 1990 automobile accident near Awka, the capital of Anambra State. The accident left him paraplegic. Since receiving treatment for his injuries in a hospital in the UK, Achebe had lived in the US, teaching at Bard College at Annandale-on-Hudson and, for the last four years, at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.  At Brown, he instituted the “Achebe Colloquium on Africa,” a huge annual conference that gathered policy makers, scholars and activists from around the globe to discuss some of the major issues pertaining to African democracy and development.

Achebe was born on November 16, 1930 and was educated at Government College Umuahia and University College, Ibadan. At Ibadan, Professor Achebe was initially admitted to study medicine, but he decided to change his areas of concentration to literature, history and religion.

After graduating from university, he worked for Radio Nigeria, rising to the post of director of External Broadcasting. He also began his career as a writer, catapulting himself to the height of Africa’s most widely read novelist. His first novel, Things Fall Apart, is the largest selling book by any African author. The novel has sold more than 10 million copies and has been translated into approximately sixty languages around the world. The classic work was followed by such other novels as No Longer At Ease, Arrow of God, A Man of the People, and Anthills of the Savannah. In addition, Achebe authored several books of essays, including Morning Yet on Creation Day, Hopes and Impediments, Home and Exile, and The Education of a British-Protected Child. Professor Achebe also published two books of poetry, a collection of short stories entitled Girls At War, a political polemic titled The Trouble With Nigeria, and several children’s books. His works won numerous literary prizes, including the Man Booker Prize and the Gish Prize for artistic excellence which he received in 2010.

Professor Achebe’s latest book, There Was A Country: A Personal History of Biafra, generated great controversy and debate in Nigeria and around the world when it was published in October of 2012. The book is Achebe’s insider account of his formation as a writer as well as a series of crises that led to Nigeria’s civil war in which a reported two million people perished.

During the Nigerian civil war (1967-1970), Achebe served as an envoy of the secessionist state of Biafra.

Achebe was the scourge of bad rulers in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa. His book The Trouble With Nigeria criticized Nigerian leaders for their “failure of leadership.” He twice rejected offers of Nigerian national honors in protest against the policies of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. However, he won the inaugural edition of the Nigerian National Merit Award in the mid-1980s.

Achebe is survived by his wife, Christie Chinwe Achebe, a professor of psychology, and four children – Chinelo (a professor), Ikechukwu (a researcher and academic), Chidi (a medical doctor based in Boston, Massachusetts), and Nwando (a professor of history at Michigan State University) – as well as several grandchildren.

SaharaReporters was told that the family had yet to make funeral arrangements. We could not ascertain whether Professor Achebe will be buried in his hometown of Ogidi or in the US.  

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