Book Reviews
The Death of Vishnu: Manil Suri
16th Mar 2010Posted in: Book Reviews Comments Off on The Death of Vishnu: Manil Suri
The Death of Vishnu: Manil Suri

On a concrete landing in an apartment block in Mumbai, Vishnu, who scrapes a living by running errands for the tenants, is dying. Above and below, all around him, life in the flats continues. Mrs Ashrani and Mrs Pathak squabble over their shared kitchen, and a pair of star-crossed teenage lovers meets on the roof terrace while the parents of one struggle to come to terms with the difficulties of faith and marriage, and the mother of the other plots to get her daughter safely married off. Upstairs an elderly recluse mourns the loss of his wife, and Vishnu’s successor guards the sounds from his transistor like a drowning man clinging to the wreckage. The building seems almost like a microcosm of life on earth, even down to the ants that pass the dying man as his soul finds its way up the stairs to the roof.

A beautifully written novel, the tone judged exquisitely from the first page to the last. It’s all here, between these covers; the almost comic tragedy of the human condition contrasted and compared with the extraordinary mythology of the god Vishnu, and glimpses from the brain of the dying Vishnu of delicious and tender eroticism. The act of death itself becomes something very real and almost experienced. Like Hilary Mantel in Beyond Black, Manil Suri seems to pin the magic to the page and make it true. I read the last sentences and uttered What? aloud, read them twice more before it hit me, then laughed aloud. Brilliant.

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