Chinua Achebe, the internationally celebrated Nigerian author, statesman, and dissident who gave literary birth to modern Africa with Things Fall Apart and continued for decades to rewrite and reclaim the history of his native country, has died following a brief illness. He was 82. His eminence worldwide was rivaled only by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Toni Morrison, and a handful of others. Achebe was a moral and literary model for countless Africans and a profound influence on such American writers as Morrison, Ha Jin, and Junot Diaz.
As a Nigerian, Achebe lived through and helped define revolutionary change in his country, from independence to dictatorship to the disastrous war between Nigeria and the breakaway country of Biafra in the late 1960s. Things Fall Apart, a short novel about a Nigerian tribesman's downfall at the hands of British colonialists, was initially rejected by several publishers. It has since sold more than 8 million copies worldwide and has been translated into more than 50 languages. Achebe never did win the Nobel Prize, which many believed he deserved, but in 2007 he did receive the Man Booker International Prize, a $120,000 honor for lifetime achievement. Click for more on Achebe's life. (Read more Chinua Achebe stories.)