Chinua Achebe, a Nigerian recognized as the father of modern African writing, has won the second Man Booker International Prize.
Canadian writers Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro and Michael Ondaatje were among the who's who of writers shortlisted for the £60,000 ($126,000 Cdn) prize, given for a lifetime body of work.
Achebe, author of more than 20 books, is best known for his first novel, Things Fall Apart, written in 1958.
This early work "made him the father of modern African literature as an integral part of world literature," said novelist Nadine Gordimer, a member of the jury that chose Achebe.
Achebe's work looks at African politics and describes how African culture and civilization has survived in the post-colonial world.
Things Fall Apart, which has been translated into 50 languages, is a story about the effects ofcolonialization on Igbo society.
His other well-known works include A Man of the People from 1966 and Anthills of the Savannah from 1988.
Achebe's work is "a joy and an illumination to read," Gordimer said.
Achebe was born in Ogidi, Nigeria, on Nov. 16, 1930, the son of Protestant converts. He went to a government school and later to the University of Ibadan, which has produced other African poets and writers.
Achebe studied broadcasting at the British Broadcasting Corp. and became the firstdirector of external broadcasting at the Nigerian Broadcasting Corp. in 1961.
He also served as a Nigerian ambassador to Biafra during its devastating famine, a subject he wrote about in the poem Refugee Mother and Child.
He has been a literary critic, most notably writing about the racism in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.
'He's what I think writers should be'
Achebe, 76, is currently a professor of languages and literature at Bard College in Annandale, N.Y.
He was paralyzed from the waist down in a 1990 car accident.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who won the Orange Prize for Fiction last week for Half a Yellow Sun, said she has been inspired by Achebe's work.
"He is a remarkable man," Ngozi said. "The writer and the man. He's what I think writers should be."
The Man Booker International Prize, launched as a spinoff of the prestigious Man Booker Prize for a single book, is awarded every two years. It was first awarded in 2005 to Albanian writer Ismail Kadare.
John Banville, Peter Carey, Don Delillo and Philip Roth were among the 15 names on the international prize shortlist announced in Toronto in April.
Achebe will receive the cash prize and a trophy at a ceremony on June 28 at Christ Church in Oxford.