Manil Suri

2 minute read
Andrea Sachs

OCCUPATION Professor of mathematics at the University of Maryland and first-time author of The Death of Vishnu

ULTIMATE GOAL To finish two additional novels, for a trilogy

QUOTE “Each line should be as correct and necessary as an equation”

Math professors are not usually known for their literary prowess. So when Manil Suri, 41, a professor of numerical analysis at the University of Maryland, applied for Pulitzer-prizewinning author Michael Cunningham’s writing workshop in 1997, Cunningham had no particular reason for high hopes. But as soon as he began reading Suri’s book, he was bowled over. “I knew from the first sentence that he was not only accepted into the class, but that he had a voice,” says Cunningham. “Sentence for sentence, he is a beautiful and entirely original writer.”

A number of other people have reached the same conclusion about the Bombay-born novelist. Early this year, 11 publishing houses fought over The Death of Vishnu, Suri’s first novel, in a heated auction. W.W. Norton won, paying a $350,000 advance for the American rights. Since then, rights have been sold in 13 countries. The book will be published next January.

The Vishnu of Suri’s lyrical novel is a drunk who lies dying on the steps of a Bombay apartment house while the neighbors squabble over who will pay for an ambulance. If anyone is familiar with cold calculation, it is Suri. “I’ve worked very hard at math,” he says. “I can’t see myself giving it up.”

–By Andrea Sachs

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