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The Death of Vishnu (P.S.)by Manil Suri
Synopses & Reviews
A compelling spiritual quest viewed through the color and tumult of life in a Bombay apartment block.
At the opening of this masterful debut novel, Vishnu, the resident odd-job man, lies dying on the apartment building staircase he inhabits, while his neighbors, the Pathaks and the Asranis, argue over who will pay for an ambulance. As the action spirals up through the floors of the building, the dramas of the residents' lives unfold: Mr. Jalal's obsessive search for higher meaning; Vinod Taneja's longing for the wife he has lost; the comic elopement of Kavita Asrani, who fancies herself the heroine of a Hindi movie.
Suffused with Hindu mythology, this story of one apartment building becomes a metaphor for the social and religious division of contemporary India, and Vishnu's ascent of the staircase parallels the sours progress through the various stages of existence. As Vishnu closes in on the riddle of his own mortality, he begins to wonder whether he might not be the god Vishnu, guardian not only of the fate of the building and its occupants, but of the entire universe.
"Few have invested their fiction with such luminous language, insight into character and grasp of cultural construct as Suri does....This fluid novel is an irresistible blend of realism, mysticism and religious metaphor, a parable of the universal conditions of human life." Publishers Weekly
"Vibrantly alive, beautifully written, full of wonderfully rich and deeply human characters....The depiction of the Asranis and the Pathaks, in all their convincingly human awfulness, brings to mind such masters of scrupulous meanness as Flaubert and Flannery O'Connor." Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours
"Enchanting....Suri's novel achieves an eerie and memorable transcendence." Paul Gray, Time
"[A] deft and confident first novel....The Death of Vishnu reminds me of the work of an earlier writer, the deliberately modest and beautifully constructed novels of R. K. Narayan." Michael Gorra, New York Times Book Review
"Enchanting....Suri's penetration of his characters' lives is as precise and cunning as that of a master surgeon like J. M. Coetzee." Anna Mundow, Boston Sunday Globe
"[P]rovocative....[Suri's] story succeeds by challenging a sitcomlike cast of characters to greater depths with a change of setting....Suri contributes to our understanding of what it means to believe." Elizabeth Kadetsky, San Francisco Chronicle Book Review
"Suri's elegant, clever prose and emotional and philosophical probing carry the action of the novel entirely....Suri has created an endlessly complex world that both breaks its inhabitants' hearts and occasionally holds out the prospect of redemption." Suzy Hansen, Salon
"Suri...has entered the realm of literature with assurance, agile humor, and an impressive breadth of social and religious concerns.... [A] tenderly comic, wryly metaphysical, and hugely entertaining tale..." Donna Seaman, Booklist
"There is an exquisite beauty in Suri's prose....An extraordinarily insightful look at human relationships." Carol Memmott, USA Today
"Vivid and engrossing....
"[A] literary accomplishment...eloquent, refined and tasteful." Washington Post Book World
"The reader is swept away by Suri's fresh, witty observations and tender comic moments." The Seattle Times
"Suri has a cynic's sense of humor and a seeker's sense of wonder, and the author displays both to penetrating effect in his first novel." Padma Viswanathan, Book Magazine
"Suri writes with obvious affection about a Bombay perhaps already lost, evoking its moods and attitudes, its light and smells....Suri's eye for detail and natural ability to create a strong sense of place and time define his considerable talent." Navtej Sarna, Times Literary Supplement (U.K.)
"Witness the debut journey of a remarkable writer....[A] combination of ruthlessness, insight, humor, and wickedly perfect pitch....For once, all the hype about a major new literary voice isn't wrong." Entertainment Weekly
Vishnu, the odd-job man in a Bombay apartment block, lies dying on the staircase landing. Around him the lives of the apartment dwellers unfold: the warring housewives on the first floor, lovesick teenagers on the second, and the quietly grieving widower on the top floor of the building. In a fevered state Vishnu looks back on his love affair with the seductive Padmini and wonders if he might actually be the god Vishnu, guardian of the entire universe.
Blending incisive comedy with Hindu mythology and a dash of Bollywood sparkle, The Death of Vishnu is an intimate and compelling view of an unforgettable world.
About the Author
Manil Suri, a native of Mumbai (Bombay), has lived in the United States since 1979. He is a professor of mathematics at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. His fiction has appeared in The New Yorker. The Death of Vishnu is his first novel.
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