The Death Of Vishnu

( 31 )

Overview

Winner of the Barnes & Noble 2001 Discover Great New Writers Award for Fiction; finalist in the First Fiction category of the 2002 Los Angeles Times Book Awards. "Vibrantly alive, beautifully written, full of wonderfully rich and deeply human characters."
At the opening of this masterful debut novel, Vishnu lies dying on the 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 ...

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Overview

Winner of the Barnes & Noble 2001 Discover Great New Writers Award for Fiction; finalist in the First Fiction category of the 2002 Los Angeles Times Book Awards. "Vibrantly alive, beautifully written, full of wonderfully rich and deeply human characters."
At the opening of this masterful debut novel, Vishnu lies dying on the 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 apartment building we are pulled into the drama of the residents’ lives: 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 divisions of contemporary India, and Vishnu’s ascent of the staircase parallels the soul’s progress through the various stages of existence. As Vishnu closes in on the riddle of his own mortality, we 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.

Winner of Barnes & Noble's 2001 Discover Great New Writers Award for Fiction

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
Manil Suri's comic prose and imaginative language transport readers to the petty squabbles and unrelenting conflicts of modern-day India. At the center of the narrative is the character of Vishnu, an aging alcoholic houseboy on the precipice of death, who lies, penniless, on the bottom step of a middle-class Bombay apartment house. While Vishnu appears to face his impending death placidly and philosophically, a maelstrom swirls around him. The residents of the building include a reclusive widower mourning the untimely death of his young wife, a Moslem family coping with the daily prejudices of their Hindu neighbors, and two families who unhappily share a kitchen. Worlds collide when the Moslem family's son elopes with the Hindu family's daughter, and Mr. Jalal, the Moslem family patriarch, apparently flips his wig, recognizing Vishnu not as their dying houseboy but as the deity whose name he bears, with the power to save. And when Mr. Jalal is found sleeping on the stairs beside Vishnu, he becomes the scapegoat for the building's many ills. In its frenetic and hilarious conclusion, The Death of Vishnu trumpets the arrival of an extremely gifted Indian writer, bringing to spectacular life the tempestuous chaos that is life in India today. (Winter 2001 Selection)
Time Magazine
As this spirit looks back on the life just ending, on the mother who named him after a Hindu god, on the prostitute whom he truly loved, Suri's novel achieves an eerie and memorable transcendence.
Paper
Suri's mix of religious mysticism and quirky realism makes for a deeply impressive debut.
Time
[An] enchanting novel....acheives an eerie and memorable transcendence.
Jim Crace
The Death of Vishnu finds the Universe in a block of Bombay flats; it is tender, caustic, witty and inspired.
Amy Tan
A wonder of a book. From the first page I could tell that this is an astonishing debut, sure to win readers and prizes.
Bharti Kirchner
[T]he reader is swept away by Suri's fresh, witty observations and tender, comic moments. —Seattle Times/Post-Intelligencer
Andrea Barrett
Sympathetic, penetrating, comic and moving, this fine and unusual first novel unexpectedly braids Hindu mythology and traditions...
Francine Prose
Vivid and engrossing.... [A] work of fiction that seems not only universal but absolutely cosmic. —Elle
Lee Siegel
[A] full, sweet-scented novel.... Juxtaposing the mundane with the comic, Suri evokes these characters with intelligence, compassion and humor. —Washington Post Book World
Los Angeles Times
Narrator John Lee ably delivers all that is thought provoking and entertaining in this breakout novel.Narrator Joh Lee ably delivers all that is thought provoking and entertaining in this breakout novel.
Michael Cunningham
Vibrantly alive, beautifully written, full of wonderfully rich and deeply human characters. . . . Brings to mind . . . Flaubert and Flannery O'Connor.
Vikram Chandra
Manil Suri has created an intimate and intricate portrait of life in this metropolis.
Shashi Tharoor
[S]lendid....an exceptionally good novel. —Los Angeles Times
Anne Stephenson
[W]onderfully comedic... .all of it filtered through the imagination of a very talented storyteller. —Arizona Republic
Michael Gorra
[A] deft and confident first novel.... finely burnished plots, oblique irony and understated prose; above all, the sense of equipoise. —New York Times Book Review
Los Angeles Times
[S]lendid....an exceptionally good novel.
Book
Suri misses no comic beat, and makes delicate and inspired use of passages from Hindu myth and indian religious life.
Boston Sunday Globe
An enchanting first novel...this tale of modern Bombay will delight readers who have had enough of skinny postmodernist fiction.
Elle
Vivid and engrossing.... [A] work of fiction that seems not only universal but absolutely cosmic.
BookPage
However you interpret this muti-layored novel, you'll be struck by by its fullness and by John Lee's perfectly pitched reading.
Daniel Mendelsohn
Suri is a writer of vivid gifts. His larger thematic preoccupations are balanced by seductively beautiful prose. —New York
Dan Cryer
Marvelously life-embracing.... A seamlessly constructed, quietly eloquent work of art. —Newsday
New York
Suri is a writer of vivid gifts. His larger thematic preoccupations are balanced by seductively beautiful prose.
USA Today
[F]resh, original....[T]here is exquisite beauty in Suri's prose.
Padma Viswanathan
Suri misses no comic beat, and makes delicate and inspired use of passages from Hindu myth and indian religious life. —Book
Anna Mundow
Enchanting....Suri's penetration of his character's lives is as precise and cunning as that of a master surgeon. —Boston Sunday Globe
Carol Memmott
[F]resh, original....[T]here is exquisite beauty in Suri's prose. —USA Today
Catherine Saint Louis
A wonder.... Vibrant characters and freshly observed psychological insights illuminate The Death of Vishnu. —Time Out New York
Suzy Hansen
[D]ynamic...elegant, clever prose and emotional and philosophical probing carry the action of the novel entirely. —Salon.com Books
Marta Salij
[A] complex, artistically rich book that is also waarm, inviting and involving. —Detroit Free Press
New York Times Book Review
[A] deft and confident first novel.... finely burnished plots, oblique irony and understated prose; above all, the sense of equipoise.
Marie Clare
Suri makes a striking debut with The Death of Vishnu, his lyrical novel of death and life...
Carla Cohen
This beautifully formed and carefully expressed work is a remarkable achievement. —Bookselling This Week
Boris Kachka
[B]oth a richly detailed portrait of a crowded Bombay building and a Hindu allegory of the soul's ascent to Heaven. —New York
Elizabeth Kadetsky
[A] provocative tale of spiritual seeking in contemporary Bombay.... Suri contributes to our understanding of what it means to believe. —San Francisco Chronicle Book Review
Wall Street Journal
[A] delightful and rich first novel, a lyrical ditty on death and life...
Washington Post Book World
[A] full, sweet-scented novel.... Juxtaposing the mundane with the comic, Suri evokes these characters with intelligence, compassion and humor.
Time Out New York
A wonder.... Vibrant characters and freshly observed psychological insights illuminate The Death of Vishnu.
Arizona Republic
[W]onderfully comedic... .all of it filtered through the imagination of a very talented storyteller.
Detroit Free Press
[A] complex, artistically rich book that is also waarm, inviting and involving.
Boston Sunday Globe
Enchanting....Suri's penetration of his character's lives is as precise and cunning as that of a master surgeon.
San Francisco Chronicle Book Review
[A] provocative tale of spiritual seeking in contemporary Bombay.... Suri contributes to our understanding of what it means to believe.
San Jose Mercury News
[A] masterful novel, written with assurance and great affection for its characters.
Newark Star Ledger
[A] highly charged satirical work, splendidly conceived and enormously effective....Here is an adept, scathing talent.
Bellingham Herald
Witty and sweet and pithy, full of luminous writing...
Philadelphia City Paper
[A] compassionate, gently mocking portrait of a Bombay apartment building's quirky inhabitants.
Bookselling This Week
This beautifully formed and carefully expressed work is a remarkable achievement.
Salon.com Books
[D]ynamic...elegant, clever prose and emotional and philosophical probing carry the action of the novel entirely.
Marie Clare
Suri makes a striking debut with The Death of Vishnu, his lyrical novel of death and life...
Seattle Times/Post-Intelligencer
[T]he reader is swept away by Suri's fresh, witty observations and tender, comic moments.
From The Critics
Suri has a cynic's sense of humor and a seeker's sense of wonder, and the author deploys both to penetrating effect in his first novel. The book, which takes place in a Bombay apartment building, is about an alcoholic, informally employed gofer, Vishua, who camps on the first-floor landing. The other primary characters are a gaggle of selfish and resignedly mediocre middle-class residents of the building. Each has gained some advantage from Vishua's life, as he has from theirs, and each demonstrates a petty reluctance to deal with his looming death. This is a rich and lovely book. Like U.R. Anantha Murthy's classic 1965 novel, Samskara, in which the body of an unpopular upper caste villager lies decaying in his home while the village squabbles over how to deal with it, it turns a discerning eye on Indian communal life, with its exigencies and odd moralities. Suri misses no comic beat, and makes delicate and inspired use of passages from Hindu myth and Indian religious life.
—Padma Viswanathan

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This is a remarkable first novel, whose lyric prose is further enhanced by Lee's soft, mesmerizing reading. The story hinges on the comatose alcoholic Vishnu, who lays dying on the first floor landing of the Bombay apartment building for which he is the houseboy. Suri has fashioned Vishnu as the conduit to each and all of the book's vibrant characters and their intertwined comic, tragic and melodramatic stories. Vishnu enables listeners to move easily through the real, the mystical, the metaphoric; as he gradually slips down into death, he crawls slowly up the stairs, recalling fine and funny scenes of his youth and early manhood. Even listeners unfamiliar with India's religions and the Hindu trinity of Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the destroyer will marvel at Suri's ability to reveal the tapestry and nuances of Indian culture through the activity contained in one small apartment building, to which Lee's rich and myriad Indian accents add atmosphere and humor. Simultaneous release with the Norton hardcover (Forecasts, Nov. 6, 2000). (Jan.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Vishnu, a dying alcoholic dwelling on a stairway landing of an apartment building in Bombay, comes to suspect that he is, in fact, the god Vishnu. He may also be hallucinating; his slow death ties together the stories of various inhabitants of the building: the comic feud of Mrs. Pathak and Mrs. Asrani; the elopement of a Muslim boy with an immature, movie-obsessed Hindu girl; the rational Mr. Jalal's crisis of faith; and Vishnu's own memories of love with the shallow prostitute Padmini. In an interview at story's end, Suri defines himself as an Indian writer and discusses the implications for his audience. While a layperson's familiarity with Hindu mythology and India's movie industry should suffice to follow the tale, a fuller understanding may elude many U.S. readers. A glossary, for instance, would be helpful, were such a thing possible on cassette. Narrated by John Lee, this audiobook is recommended with reservations. John Hiett, Iowa City P.L. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Michael Gorra
The Death of Vishnu, Manil Suri's deft and confident first novel, is set almost entirely in and around the apartment building that Vishnu, depending on your point of view, either haunts or adorns or exploits... It's a beautiful job of plotting, and it depends on the skill with which the book's last quarter cuts between Mr. Jalal and the sweet melancholy of his upstairs neighbor, the widower Taneja, creating a suspense that deepens the book's emotional register... Manil Suri's last line made me laugh out loud. But after closing his beguiling and deceptively ambitious novel, I began to wonder if perhaps that laughter ought to shade into a sob.
New York Times Book Review
Catherine Saint Louis
A wonder...Vibrant characters and freshly observed psychological insights illuminate The Death of Vishnu...the breadth and assuredness of Suri's first novel will surprise you...
Time Out New York
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393050424
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/1/2001
  • Pages: 298
  • Sales rank: 529,940
  • Product dimensions: 6.60 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Manil Suri

Manil Suri is the best-selling author of The Death of Vishnu, a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, and The Age of Shiva. A native of Mumbai, he is a professor of mathematics at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Not wanting to arouse Vishnu in case he hadn't died yet, Mrs. Asrani tiptoed down to the third step above the landing on which he lived, teakettle in hand. Vishnu lay sprawled on the stone, his figure aligned with the curve of the stairs. The laces of a pair of sneakers twined around the fingers of one hand; the other lay outstretched, as .if trying to pull his body up the next step. During the night, Mrs. Asrani noted with distress, Vishnu had not only thrown up, but also soiled himself. She had warned her neighbor, Mrs. Pathak, not to feed Vishnu when he was so sick, but did that woman ever listen? She tried not to look at the large stain spreading through the worn material of Vishnu's khaki pants, the ones that her husband had given him last Divali. Mat a mess-the jamadarni would have to be brought in to clean up such a mess, and it would not be free, either, someone would have to pay. Her large frame heaving against the sari in which it was swaddled, Mrs. Asrani peered at Vishnu from the safety of the third step and vowed it would not be her.

A more immediate problem had to be dealt with first-what to do about the cup of tea she brought Vishnu every morning? On the one hand, it was obvious that Vishnu did not have much need for tea right now. Even yesterday, he bad barely stirred when she had filled his plastic cup, and she had felt a flutter of resentment at not having received her usual salaam in return. On the other hand, giving tea to a dying man was surely a very propitious thing to do. Since she had taken this daily task upon herself, it would be foolish to stop now, when at most a few more cups could possibly be required. Besides,who knew what sort of repercussions would rain down upon her if she failed to fulfill this daily ritual?

Pressing the edge of her sari against her nose to keep out the smell, Mrs. Asrani descended gingerly to the landing. Using the scrap of brown paper she had brought along for the purpose, she fished out the cup from the small pile of belongings near Vishnu's head, taking care to always keep the paper between her fingers and the cup, so as not to infect herself with whatever he had. She placed the cup on the step above the landing and poured tea from the kettle. Hating the idea of good tea being wasted, she hesitated when the cup was half full, but only for a second, filling it to its usual level to fulfill her pledge. Then she ascended the steps and surveyed her handiwork. The cup lay steaming where she had left it-but now Vishnu looked like he was stretching out across the landing to try and reach it, like a man dead in the desert, grasping for the drink that could have saved him. She thought about moving the cup to correct this, but the scrap of paper she had used now lay on the landing, and she couldn't be sure which surface had touched the cup. There was nothing she could do anymore, so she turned and climbed up the remaining steps. At the door of her flat, it occurred to her that she still didn't know if Vishnu was alive or dead. But it didn't really matter, she had done her duty in either case. Satisfied, Mrs, Asrani entered her flat and closed the door behind her.

The stream rises lazily from the surface of the tea. It is thick with the aroma of boiled milk, streaked with the perfume of cardamom and clove. It wisps and curls and rises and falls, tracing letters from some fleeting alphabet.

A sudden gust leads it spiraling down to the motionless man. It reaches his face, almost invisible now, and wafts playfully under his nose. Surely the smells it carries awaken memories in the man. Memories of his mother in the tin-and-cardboard hut, brewing tea in the old iron kettle. She would squeeze and press at the leaves, and use them several times over, throwing them away only when no more flavor could be coaxed out. Memories of Padmini, the vapor still devoid of cardamom or clove, but smelling now of chameli flowers fastened like strings of pearls around her wrists. After they had made love, and if she did not have another person waiting, the tea would be carried in by one of the children at the brothel, and they would sit on the bed in silence and sip it from metal tumblers. Memories of Kavita, the steam finally milk-rich and perfumed, her long black tresses framing her smiling face as she bends to fill his cup. For almost a month last year while Mrs. Asrani was sick, it was her daughter Kavita who performed the daily ritual. Vishnu would scrape a broken comb through his knotted hair every morning and wait to deliver a toothy "Salaam, memsahib!" when she came, winking at her with his good eye.

All these memories and more the steam tries to evoke in the man. His mother discarding all her used leaves on festivals, even scooping out a few spoonfuls of sugar to sweeten the tea. Padmini pressing her lips against the metal rim, laughing as she offers him the tumbler stained with unnatural red. Kavita trying to keep her dupatta from falling off as she bends down, passing the kettle from hand to hand so as to not bum her fingers.

A breath of exhaled air emerges from the man's nostrils, fraying the steam into strands. The strands shimmer for a second, then fade away.

It had been almost eleven years now that Mrs. Asrani bad been bringing Vishnu his morning tea. Before that, it had been Tall Ganga for whom she had brought the tea, the old woman who had slept on the landing between the ground and first floors since as far back as anyone could remember. One day, Tall Ganga had announced to Mrs. Pathak and Mrs...

The Death of Vishnu. Copyright © by Manil Suri. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Reading Group Guide

IntroductionA member of the Hindu trinity, the god Vishnu is the sustainer of the universe, the center between Brahma, the creator, and Shiva, the destroyer. However, in The Death of Vishnu, the title character is only an impoverished alcoholic who is dying on the stairwell while the residents of the building squabble over who will pay for the ambulance. And yet, perhaps there is much more to this Vishnu-just maybe, he is indeed the god Vishnu, the one who sustains the entire world.The enormous implications of the answer to this question, and others raised in the novel, infuse its drama, comedy, and tragedy with a unique importance, a special gravity. Mrs. Pathak and Mrs. Asrani go to war over who is stealing butter in the kitchen. Mr. Jalal physically tortures himself in an obsessive search for an elusive faith, though he cannot fathom what the results will be when he reaches his goal. Kavita goes to great lengths to fashion her life after a heroine, any heroine, from the romantic world of Bombay cinema. As the life of the building literally swirls around his body on the stairs, Vishnu's own life flashes before his eyes and takes him through the stages of life in the Hindu universe. Eventually he comes to the question: Am I an avatar of Vishnu? Am I one of his incarnations on earth, and if so, which one? Will a goddess be waiting for me on the other side? If not, will death be the end, or is another life waiting for me beyond the door at the top of the stairwell?The novel takes place over a short period of time in the life of a Bombay apartment building. Through this window, we learn the stories of its residents and the forces that haveshaped their lives as Manil Suri creates an intimate and intricate portrait of life in a great Indian metropolis. Discussion Questions
  • What was actually happening during Vishnu's out-of-body experience in the stairwell? Was this the dream of a dying man, informed by his experiences in life, or was it an authentic transition away from his body, in line with the Hindu concept of death? What evidence is there of either position?
  • As the only Muslim residents, the Jalal's are outsiders in the building, and are occasionally referred to with suspicion by the rest of the building and the neighborhood. They are also the most religiously fervent-demonstrated in Mrs. Jalal's piety and wish for her family to join her in religious observance, and in Mr. Jalal's enthusiastic conversion to a spiritual life. Is there a relationship between isolation and spirituality being drawn?
  • How are the Asranis and Pathaks different in this respect? Is their membership in the dominant Hindu culture the cause of their very different relationship to religion? Or, is that an unfair assessment of middle-class families struggling to do what they feel is right?
  • What resemblance does The Death of Vishnu bear to the works of other Indian authors you've read? How is it different? For instance, does it contain the qualities of "magical realism" found in Salman Rushdie's books?
  • Who is Padmini to Vishnu? Despite his unfailing devotion to her, he still laughs heartily at the absurdity of his own romantic fantasies when they steal the Jalal's car and drive to Lonavala. Was it physical attraction that kept him coming to her, or something else? Why was she so appealing to him right up until she disappeared from his life, even after he was overwhelmed by the absurdity of it all?
  • Why is Mr. Jalal obsessed with experiencing faith? The power of his yearning is stronger than the intellectual pursuits that drove his prior life, even leading him to acts of violence upon himself. Did his "awakening" represent an authentic change for him, or was his previous adherence to the doctrine of reason an equally faith-based position?
  • Why does Mr. Taneja mourn the loss of his wife for so many years? Do you think he should have given greater consideration to the marriage proposal he received while working for the social agency? He often seems to be above the anxieties of the other families in the building-is this because of his financial comfort, or his lack of a family to worry about, or simply his personality?
  • Kavita's final "performance" for the police investigator paints an unflattering, self-absorbed picture of her, one which is in line with the petty hostilities displayed between the Asranis and Pathaks throughout the novel. However she also does appear to have genuine sympathy for Vishnu-in fact she probably called upon those feelings in order to render her final performance more authentic. What criticism is being made of these rivaling families throughout the novel?
  • Does the conclusion of the novel give you the impression that it took place in a Hindu universe, or was the scene in the forest another aspect of Vishnu's dream? Is it a Hindu world, or is the recurrent Hindu mythology a mere vehicle for understanding the culture that the characters live within? Given that all of the action involving Vishnu takes place within a flashback, is it possible that the entire novel is his dream? Is he perhaps, like the god Vishnu, supporting the universe, by imagining it?
About the Author: Manil Suri, born in Mumbai (Bombay) in 1959, studied mathematics at the University of Bombay, and later received his M.S. and Ph.D. at Carnegie-Mellon University. A professor of mathematics at the University of Maryland, his work as a writer of fiction helps him cope with the "horror" of being a mathematician. As a cook and a painter he dispels the horror of being a writer. First excerpted in The New Yorker in 2000, The Death of Vishnu is his first novel.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 31 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 31 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2005

    Why I learned to read....

    This book was not one for those looking for an easy read that sits on the coffee table. It was a book that was meant to be read thoroughly, thoughtfully, and with a sense of fantasy to be able to comprehend Vishnu's daydreams as he dies and the unique lives of the dwellers on the Bombay apartment. I read this book for a literature coarse in college and have since read it three more times. Every time I read it I note something new and remember why I was so intrigued the first time. Definately read this book if you enjoy frame stories (stories within stories), Eastern cultures, mythology, the concept of love and how it relates to everything.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2009

    Lively in a book club

    Even though it is set in an exotic place, this is the type of plot with which you are familiar. Even if you do not know a great deal about Vishnu and his religious significance, this type of religious journey resembles other things you have probably read. With a group of people, you could have fun discussing this book. There are lots of interesting plot twists and sub plots. The types of characters are also ones that you could have fun analysing. I prefer a warmer tone than this one, which looks at its characters from a distance, and without much tenderness or affection.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2008

    Who do we know and who knows the folks we know.

    Sometimes what we say and do with/for/to those we know, impacts the lives of those we don't know. This book was so on the mark about how lives are 'connected' in ways, positive and negative, and how those relationships affect us. It was funny, sometimes challenging to keep track of where and what time frame I was reading about, informative about Indian life, and always entertaining. A delightful book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2007

    A very nice change of pace

    I really, really enjoyed this book. I wouldn't exactly describe the ending as 'emotionally satisfying,' the journey there was light-hearted and refreshing, with some subtle, poignant insights. If the author is attempting to persuade the reader to consider his or her own humanity, honesty, charity, and love, it is presented in a subtle voice that doesn't overwhelm, but helps the reader to consider his or her own hypocrises by observing it in others. This book is by no means a cliff-hanger, edge-of-your-seat, crying-buckets-of-tears sort of novel, but it is very good, extremely funny, empathic, and critical.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2006

    Great Language and Word Structure but Slow

    There are numerous funny parts to this book, however, there isn't much of a plot. Vishnu's dream sequences are what help slow the novel down, but this is improved only by accounts of his time with Padmini a prostitute who he loves. The rest of the novel was quite funny and near the end I guessed the author wanted to show the good and disappointing aspects of religion. A lot of things were still left a little unresolved with the tenants of the building and would make for a great sequel. All and all it wasn't that great but was still sort of an enjoyable read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2005

    A Wonderful Read

    I don't know why people say they read this book to prepare them for trips to India...why not read a travel guide for that? In any event, this novel is a religious and social work done on the lives of various people living in India: one a dying man on the steps of an apartment complex, another a daughter of the upstairs family who's in love with the boy from the downstairs, a crazy radio man who has an interesting past, etc. This book is inundated with Indian words, yes, but I managed to get by just reading and using comprehension skills. Also, I love the way the third-person view switches around, it gives you an opportunity to look at the stories of various people's lives from their own stories, not someone else's. Finally, the dream sequences/dying visions that Vishnu has are incredible. Ironically, they are full of life and are a joy to read. The entire book is poetic and beautiful, and shouldn't be taken as a book to read if you're preparing for a trip to another country. They have National Geographic and Froemmer's for that. :D

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2004

    Very Disappointing

    This book was a struggle to read, had been hoping to learn more about Indian culture, but was sadly disappointed. Way too many words and phrases that were not translateable unless you looked up their meaning in the dictionary in the back. Story had some potential but was just a bit too far out there for me to really be interested in or care to understand. Read 2/3 of the book and gave up, just could not hack it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2004

    the 'death of me' after I read this book

    Simply awful. I was simultaneously bored and depressed. Vishnu does eventually die. Thank goodness, or I was going to have to shoot myself. Personally, I read books first for entertainment (sorry scholars). Still find it incredulous I was able to make it through the whole thing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2004

    A few intertwined short stories does not a novel make

    This is what came to my mind after getting half way through the book. The story of the man longing for his wife was superb, I enjoyed it much. The fact that it was entangled with the other stories was a bit distasteful though. I think Suri shouldve just released a book of short stories instead of trying to intwine them into a novel. Something was lost in the combination of all of the stories. If ever I read the book again- I will seek to read the stories as stories instead of reading them tangled together.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2003

    Disappointing

    I read The Death of Vishnu in preparation for a travel course to India. While I was hoping to gain some insight into Indian culture, I found the book to be SO inundated with Hindi words and philosophy that it became bogged down. Instead of learning about India, I found myself scratching my head and wondering what Manil Suri could have possibly been thinking. The ever-changing third person narrators kept me from feeling any connection with the characters. Hearing the story from one character, or even from several first-person narrators, probably would have helped me relate to and appreciate the story.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2002

    A Memorable Book

    This book has a beautiful textured cover that made you look at it, then continue walking. It's the rare person that actually picks the book up and reads it. We are pulled into the private apartment life of four families. Their quarrels, conversations and their vulnerabilities. But the centerpiece of this story is Vishnu, the houseboy that lies dying on the steps. We never get any true insight into the psyche of Vishnu other than the vague yet compelling interludes of his life. As for the voyage of his adventure as the god Vishnu, we are pulled into the realm of skeptism as we toy with whether this is a dream or reality as we know it. Overall, this book is a compelling tale that makes you savor every word 'till the end. But in retrospect, you begin to find frayed ends rather than the smooth endings you thought there were. But sometimes there's a whole different story in an unraveled cord.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2002

    I finally bought the book.

    I kept on passing by this book and each time I picked it up, I'd put it down. Something caught my attention. Perhaps, it was the texture of the book, gold features on the book cover or the awkward imagery of the characters. So, now the book is in my hand, and I am ready to read it after passing by it over 100 times. I just thought I 'd let folks know why I picked up the book. Expect a review of the Death Of Vishnu. I do like the reading and discussion guide. I will rate the cover of this book only for now. There should be a category for this.This book has staying power, and I am happy to see that it is ranked so high. There are other book covers alone that I am interested in obtaining. Sometimes, that's all an avid reader has to go by when shopping online.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2002

    Not a good picture

    I will not recommend this book to someone who has never been in India. It paints the life of only one group of people in India and he overdoes it sometimes.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2002

    A great Novel

    This books brings the plight of the normal man. Another book in recent times of the same calibre is a Novel in Verse called Dark Rooms written bu Siddharth Katragadda. Both explore the same theme but differently

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2002

    hell of a tale

    I read this tale on a whim, I saw it at work picked it up and couldn't put it down. It captured both the (forgive me...) "Ying and Yang", of the human experience. It is death looking at us with an empathetic eye. Then, life looking as it is. I loved the characters dramatic effect on each others lives. It was mind expanding at the spiritual level, too, with references to the Hindu religion and it's practice. "A Beautiful Mind Opener!"

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2002

    The Death and Life of Vishnu

    Trully an amazing story. I found myself in two different worlds, one of the spirit and one of the physical. Each character carries a voice that is unique from the other characters. A joy to read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2002

    A great read!

    I couldn't put this book down! It was funny, insightful, and well written. You really get to know the characters and care about what they're going through. I also appreciate the glossary of terms in the back. Manil Suri did a great job showing India to the rest of the world.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2002

    Nasty Little Tale

    Reading it I thought it was dark humor - a parody of the worst people could be - but listening to an interview with the author - I realized he was serious. A beggar dying on the stoop, tenants squabbling, man pining over his dead wife, tenants ganging up on each other and causing the near death of an innocent couple,.... Well written, but a very negative impression of people in India. I read it for our book group - lively discussion - many did like it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2002

    A Superb novel

    This is a fantastic novel. In his debut, Suri utilizes a myriad of literary metaphors to compare the lives of the residents of a small urban apartment building to the members of society as a whole. Suri's use of the english language is superb as he manages to shift from scenario to scenario with fluent transitions. I look forward to reading his literature in the future.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2002

    Involving from page 1

    Great book! This is one of those tales in which there are many different stories sort of intertwined with one another...this story is practically written for the big screen, and there are plenty of references to our very own indian film industry! Barring a few poorly written sexual scenarios, this story is very involving! It drags a bit towards the end, but it'll leave you satisfied with a somewhat more optimistic outlook on life. A must-read for any Indian, and a must-read for anyone who loves good literature.

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