JOHNANNESBURG, South Africa -- Acclaimed Nigerian author Chinua Achebe, who wrote “Things Fall Apart,” died Friday after a brief illness. He was 82.
Achebe, often called the father of African literature, was best known for “Things Fall Apart," about the Igbo culture and the impact of colonialism in Africa. The novel, published in 1958, sold more than 12 million copies and was translated into dozens of languages.
His last book, last year's “There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra,” was about the Biafran region's failed war of independence and resulting famine.
In 2007, he was awarded the Man Booker prize for his life’s work.
Achebe’s family issued a statement calling him one of the great literary voices of his time. “He was also a beloved father, uncle and grandfather, whose wisdom and courage inspired all who knew him,” the statement said.
The Nelson Mandela Center of Memory on Friday sent condolences to Achebe’s family, describing him as “a great African writer and thinker.”
The center's namesake, former South African President Nelson Mandela, "referred to professor Achebe as a writer ‘in whose company the prison walls fell down,’” said a spokesman for the center, Sello Hatang.
It was not immediately clear where Achebe had died.
Achebe who lived in the U.S. and was professor of African studies at Brown University, loved and missed Nigeria immensely but condemned its authorities and widespread government corruption. He twice rejected Nigerian attempts to honor him, most recently in 2011.
Achebe’s death was announced by a spokesman for the government in his home state of Anambra, Nigeria. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on Friday called Achebe “a cultural icon” and said he felt immensely sad when he learned of his death.
“Achebe’s frank, truthful and fearless interventions in national affairs will be greatly missed at home in Nigeria, because while others may have disagreed with his views, most Nigerians never doubted his immense patriotism and sincere commitment to the building of a greater, more united and prosperous nation that all Africans and the entire black race could be proud of,” he said in a statement.
In 2009, Achebe returned to Nigeria for the first time in a decade, when thousands flocked to the airport to greet him.
Achebe lived in America after suffering a car accident in 1990 that left him in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down.