Manil Suri is probably not accustomed to being hailed as one of India”s great new literary voices. Nevertheless, the Bombay-born Suri, a professor of mathematics at the University of Maryland, has certainly entered the realm of fiction with a bang his first novel, “The Death of Vishnu” has already impressed a myriad of critics and continues to be well received across the world.

Paul Wong
Courtesy of W.W. Norton

Manil Suri will be appearing to present his new book at Shaman Drum Bookshop at 8pm.

The novel is set within a Bombay apartment block, a microcosm of the heaving Indian metropolis that also serves as the center of the universe for Vishnu, the dying drunk whose life is intertwined with the unique collection of apartment dwellers that surround him. Suri cleverly takes alternating perspectives from each of the characters in order to create a dynamic, fluid story that places the bustle and diversity of Bombay as its backdrop. The novelist also employs a good deal of Indian mythology in order to give “The Death of Vishnu” a mystical, dreamlike quality. Each scene shifts nicely from one dysfunctional character to the next, always coming back and centering on Vishnu”s final views of his home and flashbacks from his childhood.

In presenting each of his characters in different lights throughout the story, the reader becomes intimate with each of their graces and shortcomings some of Vishnu”s neighbors are comical in their backwardness while the tragedies of others are chronicled tenderly, allowing floods of empathy to flow forth from the audience. Suri is creative with his use of cultural referencing his inclusion and mention of Hindi films, religious icons, and colorful festivals gives “The Death of Vishnu” an unsurpassable Indian flavor that can be admired by all. The story provides an intricate portrayal of Far Eastern values and beliefs that can truly transcend all cultural barriers.

Manil Suri may be new to the world of fiction writing, yet he is surely faring nicely as a conveyor of Indian literature. The author manages to bring an excellent degree of social comedy, emotional tumult, and cultural commentary together to create a tale that traces the spiritual ascendance of a poor drunkard and questions the fate of all things in this universe. In the style of other Indian greats like V.S. Naipaul and R.K. Narayan, Manil Suri truly reaches above the norm to produce a novel stunning as a debut and touching as a work of true literature. “The Death of Vishnu” is certainly recommended for its subtlety, confidence, yet most of all, for its pure universality.

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