- Associated Press - Friday, March 22, 2013

LAGOS, NIGERIA (AP) - Nigerian author Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani was just 10 years old when she first read Chinua Achebe’s groundbreaking novel “Things Fall Apart.”

She devoured the rich use of Igbo proverbs in his book, which forever changed Africa’s portrayal in literature.

That inspiration carried over into the creation of a pivotal character in her debut work, “I Do Not Come to You by Chance,” which pulls readers into the dark and greedy world of Nigerian Internet scam artists.

“Like many contemporary Nigerian writers, I grew up on a literary diet that comprised a huge dose of Achebe’s works,” she said. “My parents were so proud of his accomplishments, and quoted the Igbo proverbs in his books almost as frequently as they quoted Shakespeare.”

Achebe’s death at the age of 82 was announced Friday by his publisher. His works inspired countless writers around the world, though the literary style of “Things Fall Apart,” first published in 1958, particularly transformed the way novelists wrote about Africa.

Adewale Maja-Pearce, a literary critic who succeeded Achebe as the editor of Heinemann’s African Writers Series, called him a pioneer whose “contribution is immeasurable.”

In breaking with the Eurocentric lens of viewing the continent through the eyes of outsiders, Achebe took readers to a place full of complex characters who told their stories in their own words and style.

Achebe once wrote that a major goal “was to challenge stereotypes, myths, and the image of ourselves and our continent.”

He resisted the idea that he was the father of modern African literature, recalling a rich and ancient tradition of storytelling on the continent. Still, his influence on younger writers of the late 20th and early 21st century, particularly those from his homeland, was undeniable.

Achebe’s influence has been completely seminal and inspirational, and there are writers that have been called the School of Achebe who have imitated his style,” said Chukwuma Azuonye, professor of African and African Diaspora Literatures at the University of Massachusetts in Boston.

A newer crop of successful novelists with ties to Nigeria has broken away from Achebe’s mode, Azuonye said, developing their own modernist style of writing that focuses on clashes of cultures and other issues facing Nigerians abroad.

Among those influenced by Achebe was Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who won the Orange Prize for Fiction for “Half of a Yellow Sun.”

On Friday, she released an elegy she had written for Achebe in the Igbo language.

“Something has happened. Something big has happened. Chinua Achebe is gone. A great writer, a man of great wisdom, a man of good heart,” she wrote.

“Who are we going to boast about? Who are we going to take out to the world? Who is going to guide us? A storm has passed! Tears fill my eyes.

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