Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe won the 2007 Man Booker International Prize for fiction yesterday, beating nominees including Philip Roth, Margaret Atwood and Ian McEwan.
The ?60,000 (US$120,000) prize is awarded every two years for a body of fiction.
Achebe, 76, has written more than 20 books -- including novels, short stories, essays and poetry -- but is best known for his first novel Things Fall Apart (1958), and for another published more than 30 years later, Anthills of the Savannah.
"Chinua Achebe's early work made him the father of modern African literature as an integral part of world literature," said novelist Nadine Gordimer, one of the three judges for the award.
"In Things Fall Apart and his other fiction set in Nigeria, Chinua Achebe inaugurated the modern African novel," said another judge, academic Elaine Showalter.
"He also illuminated the path for writers around the world seeking new words and forms for new realities and societies. We honor his literary example and achievements," she said.
The third judge was novelist Colm Toibin.
Achebe's work centers on African politics, the way Africa and Africans are depicted in the West and the effects of colonization on African societies.
In all, 15 writers from Canada, Britain, the US, Australia, Ireland, France, Israel, Mexico, Nigeria and the Netherlands were shortlisted for the 2007 Man Booker International Prize for fiction award.
In addition to Achebe, the contenders included three Canadians -- Atwood, Michael Ondaatje and short-story writer Alice Munro -- and two Americans, Roth and Don DeLillo.
Also nominated were three Britons -- McEwan, Salman Rushdie and Doris Lessing -- Ireland's John Banville, Australia's Peter Carey, Mexico's Carlos Fuentes, Israel's Amos Oz, France's Michel Tournier and Dutch writer Harry Mulisch.
The Man Booker International Prize was launched in 2004 as a spin-off from Britain's prestigious Booker Prize awarded for a single novel by a writer from Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth of former British colonies.
Sponsored by financial services conglomerate Man Group PLC, the prize is awarded every two years to a living author who has published fiction in English or whose work has been translated into English.
Albanian writer Ismail Kadare won the inaugural prize in 2005.
Achebe will receive the prize on June 28 at a ceremony in Oxford, England.
The author began work with the Nigerian Broadcasting Co in Lagos in 1954 and also studied broadcasting at the BBC in London.
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