Manil Suri biography

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Manil Suri

Manil Suri

How to pronounce Manil Suri: Ma-neel Soo-ree

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 (1983–89), associate (1989–94), full professor (1994–present). 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 writer.

About This Biography
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Interview

A conversation between Manil Suri and Michael Cunningham, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Hours.

I’m Michael Cunningham, and I have the privilege of talking to Manil Suri about his remarkable first novel, The Death of Vishnu. Who are some of your literary influences? Do you identify yourself particularly as an Indian writer?
Both of these questions are kind of loaded questions, because first of all I’m never quite clear in my mind what is meant by a literary influence. How do you interpret that?

I would say, any piece of writing that stays with you, and in some way influences the kind of writer you are, whether it be Henry James or Jacqueline Susann, both of whom I claim as influences.
OK, well that’s good, because I certainly grew up on a lot of Jacqueline Susann-type novels. But more serious writers I would have to say, the one that comes to mind is V. S. Naipaul. I’ve just read one book of his, A House for Mr. Biswas, and the thing that stayed with me out of that novel was the way his characters speak. And they speak in English, but you can tell they are speaking an Indian language. It’s their intonation, or, I don’t know how he does it, and that’s ...

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Books by this Author

Books by Manil Suri at BookBrowse
The City of Devi jacket The Age of Shiva jacket The Death of Vishnu jacket
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All the books below are recommended as readalikes for Manil Suri but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
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    Aravind Adiga was born in 1974 in Madras (now called Chennai), and grew up in Mangalore in the south of India. He was educated at Columbia University in New York and Magdalen College, Oxford. His articles have appeared in ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    The Death of Vishnu

    Try:
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    by Aravind Adiga

  • Sonny Brewer

    Sonny Brewer

    Sonny Brewer is the author of the novels, The Poet of Tolstoy Park, A Sound Like Thunder, Cormac - The Tale of a Dog Gone Missing, and The Widow and the Tree. Brewer also edited the anthology series Stories from the Blue Moon... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    The Death of Vishnu

    Try:
    The Poet of Tolstoy Park
    by Sonny Brewer

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