Nigerian-born author and poet Chinua Achebe died this morning in Boston after a brief illness. He was 82.

Achebe is best known for his 1958 novel Things Fall Apart, an epic tale addressing the clash between Western and traditional African values. A staple in high school and college English literature classes, Things Fall Apart has sold over 10 million copies and been translated into over 45 languages. Achebe published more than 20 books in his lifetime, consisting of novels, essays, poetry collection and short stories. His last book There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra, a memoir, was published in October 2012.

Nicknamed “Dictionary” in college, Achebe was one of Africa’s most celebrated authors. Nelson Mandela once called him “the writer in whose company the prison walls came down.” He was born on November 16, 1930 in the village of Ogidi in southeastern Nigeria and later attended the University College of Ibadan where he discovered the work of literary giants like Williams Shakespeare and WB Keats. He would start his career as a scriptwriter on radio but quickly transitioned into writing. Achebe was forced to leave Nigeria for the United Kingdom in the 60s after publishing his fourth novel A Man of People because the military accused him of having prior knowlegde of a coup that sent the country into a civil war known as the Biafran War.

A car accident in 1990 left Achebe paralyzed from the waist down. He emigrated to the United States where he continued to write on the conditions of his beloved Nigeria. He won the Man Booker International Prize for Fiction in 2007.

At the time of his passing, Achebe was living in Rhode Island and working as a professor of Africana studies at Brown University.

He leaves behind his wife Christiana and four children.

In a statement to the Guardian, Achebe’s family asked for privacy, and paid tribute to “one of the great literary voices of all time. He was also a beloved husband, father, uncle and grandfather, whose wisdom and courage are an inspiration to all who knew him.”

We are sending our prayers to the Achebe family.