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The Death of Vishnu by Manil Suri




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Stairway to Heaven

University of Maryland math professor Manil Suri has written his first novel, The Death of Vishnu, and it’s a gem. With the clarity and crispness that comes from his math background, he presents a complex and clever story of life, death and forbidden love among residents of a Bombay apartment building. A handyman named Vishnu lies dying on a stairway in the building. Is this Vishnu the same one as the Hindu god who is the keeper of the universe? In many ways, Vishnu the handyman is the keeper of community among the residents of the building. Their many reactions to him and to each other make this book rich with characters and warm and inviting.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Mr. Jalal craned his head around the stairway to make sure there was no one on the landing. Vishnu lay just as he had been left this morning, the suns on his sheet beaming in the light filtering in from outside. Seeing his inert body, Mr. Jalal had the strange feeling of being a murderer stealing back to the scene of a crime. He shook his head to expel this thought---what if Vishnu was able to read it in his mind?
How frail Vishnu looked. It was hard to imagine that this body before him could have metamorphosed into something so terrifying. Had it been a mistake? Was it simply a dream, after all? But wait, wasn’t that a grin Vishnu’s face was twisted into? Could he be smirking at the folly of mortals, whose flaw it was to always go on appearance, whose fate it was to never comprehend what lay underneath?”

Serious fiction readers will love The Death of Vishnu and look forward to the next novels of Manil Suri.

Steve Hopkins, September 26, 2001


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