Thursday, September 1, 2011
The Death of Vishnu
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.