Manil Suri Biography
Manil Suri was born in July, 1959 in Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay). He
spent several years of his life acquiring degrees in mathematics (B.Sc. (1979),
University of Bombay; M.S. (1980) and Ph.D. (1983), Carnegie-Mellon University)
followed by several years climbing the academic ladder as a mathematics
professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (assistant
(198389), associate (198994), full professor (1994present). This is
the only job he has ever had, and he is amazed to wake up and discover (on most
days) that he still likes it.
He claims that writing has been a way for him to escape the horror of being a
mathematician. (It is rumored he also complains frequently to his colleagues of
the horror of being a writer, declaring mathematics to be his only escape.) He
wrote his first short story in 1985 and spent the next ten years finding out how
wanting was that initial attempt. During that time he wrote maybe seven more
stories, dabbled in some informal writers' groups and even started a novel about
a Pittsburgh woman and her transvestite son, thankfully abandoned after five
chapters. One year, he spent weeks polishing up two or three of his best pieces
and sent them out to thirty or forty literary journals. For his efforts, he was
rewarded with the obligatory thirty or forty rejection slips. Typical acceptance
rates even for obscure journals being 5% and lower, he is relieved he sought
tenure in math, not creative writing.
In 1995, he did have his first story, "The Tyranny of Vegetables,"
published. Unfortunately, it was in a Bulgarian-language journal and he was only
able to identify it by an author photograph next to the piece. He thinks the
name of the journal is Orpheus, but as he is unable to read the title of
the complimentary copy that came from Bulgaria, he cannot be sure.
He started The Death of Vishnu as a short story in 1995. It was
inspired by the death of an actual man named Vishnu who had lived (and died) on
the steps of the Bombay apartment building in which he grew up. By 1997, it had
grown to three chapters, and he took it to a workshop at the Fine Arts Work
Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts led by Michael Cunningham. Cunningham
began his critique with the exhortation to "keep writing this at any
cost" and ended it with "you must do whatever is necessary to finish
this." That's when Suri realized that perhaps the time for dabbling had
come to an end, perhaps he had stumbled onto the start of something more
serious. Three years later, an excerpt, "The Seven Circles" appeared
in The New Yorker, bringing in his first non-Bulgarian audience.
In addition to Michael Cunningham, Suri has taken writing workshops with two
other wonderful teachers: authors Jane Bradley and Vikram Chandra. He has been a
fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the MacDowell Colony,
and was the winner of the 1998 Jenny McKean Moore Residency Fellowship awarded
biannually by George Washington University.
Manil Suri's avocational interests include painting and cooking, which he
claims are the only respites from the horror of being a mathematician and a
This biography was last updated on 08/03/2011.
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