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Achebe obituary

Susan Houlton (dpa, Reuters, AFP)March 22, 2013

Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe has died in the United States at the age of 82. He is widely regarded as the grandfather of modern African literature.

Chinua Achebe in 2008 (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
Image: picture-alliance/AP

The career of famed Nigerian author Chinua Achebe spanned more than half a century. The announcement of his death at the age of 82 prompted an immediate flood of tributes from Africa and beyond.

Achebe's first novel "Things Fall Apart", which was published in 1958, was translated into dozens of languages and sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. That and the more than 20 books that followed changed the way that Africa is viewed in modern literature.

A group of Nigerians Photo: Jan-Philipp Scholz
Achebe wanted Nigerians' natural elequence to be heardImage: DW/J.-P. Scholz

"Things Fall Apart" tells the story of Achebe's own tribal Igbo society in the years preceding the arrival of British settlers in the late 19th century. The book is credited with bringing about a completely new view of Africa in the West. Achebe said his aim had been to allow Africans to speak with their natural elequence, rather than be represented as barbarians by Western authors such as Joseph Conrad in his book "Heart of Darkness."

In an interview with DW, fellow Nigerian writer Chuma Nwokolo said Achebe had "brought a new dimension to African literature."

"Africa has come a long way since he wrote his books but it can never forget the debt it owes to Chinua Achebe," Nwokolo added.

DW's Lagos correspondent Sam Olukoya says: "Professor Achebe's popularity fits the title of his fourth novel "A Man of the People." For a man whose books have been read by millions of people around the world, Achebe is truly a man of the people. Most Nigerians who went to school in the last sixty years read his books."

Following a traffic accident Achebe spent his last years confined to a wheelchair which he said affected his creativity. His last book was "There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra." It covers the turbulent years between 1967 and 1970 when the region of Biafra unsuccessfuly tried to break away from Nigeria in a bloody and brutal conflict.

Chinua Achebe on his return to Nigeria in 2009, his first visit in over 10 years (Getty Images)
Chinua Achebe returned to Nigeria for the first time in over 10 years at the age of 70Image: AFP/Getty Images

Achebe won numerous international awards which, however, did not include the Nobel Prize for Literature which many believed he deserved. In 2002 he was awarded the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade and in 2007 he won the Man Booker International Prize.