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The Death of Vishnu (The Hindu Gods #1)

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  7,849 Ratings  ·  532 Reviews
In Manil Suri’s debut novel, Vishnu, the odd-job man, lies dying on the staircase of an apartment building while around him unfold the lives of its inhabitants: warring housewives, lovesick teenagers, a grieving widower. In a fevered state, Vishnu looks back on his love affair with the seductive Padmini and wonders if he might actually be the god Vishnu, guardian of the en ...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published June 28th 2010 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 2001)
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Vishnu Dies!

And nothing interesting happens. Familiarity breeds contempt or in my case, it bred indifference. The Death of Vishnu is a likable novel and a decent debut effort on part of Manil Suri but the story has nothing exceptional to offer to the readers especially if one has read at least one book (ok! Make that two) which mentions ‘Bombay’ in its blurb.

An apartment building with residents who share very little in common except one thing – they all are aware about a man who is dying on the
Aug 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well - I read this book a few years ago, front to back, without really reading the blurb about the author. Loved the book, and when I finally read the my surprise, I saw that it was DR.SURI!!! Dr. Suri was my Calculus 2 Professor in college, no joke. He teaches math at University of Maryland Baltimore County, where I went. His class was totally hard, and my friends and I had to fight to stay on top of things.
But, I must say, his book was excellent. After I found out he was the author,
Gorab Jain
Jan 24, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Gorab by: Meenal
Shelves: indian, 2016
My rating - 3/5
Wanted to read this since 2008 because of a friend's strong recommendation. She read it in our college library, which consisted mostly of religious texts (and academics!) and discouraged other forms of fiction. This book somehow landed in the library because of its misleading title. Its not based on Indian Gods or mythology, only brushes upon them.

An alcoholic named Vishnu lays dying on the staircase of a middle class Mumbai apartment, causing all the mumbo jumbo and hoopla's in t
Jun 10, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ca-book-club
an absurd indian soap opera...I was more enthralled by the writing-- which was witty and interesting and at times beautiful prose-- than the plot. But the book was funny and sad and thought-provoking at the same time. I'm glad I read it. I think had Suri developed his characters more fully (and perhaps made fewer of them the center of attention for so long) I would have been more engaged. Instead, we are supposed to care about the lives of 8+ people in 250 pages. Too much. I wouldn't necessarily ...more
Description: 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 rec ...more
Jul 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An impulse buy, but one which I am glad I have tried. This is a fascinating tale of a group of neighbours in a Bombay (sorry, Mumbai) building. It is a tale of bickering wives, demurring husbands, kitty parties, irani tea houses, paanwallas and cigarettewallas, and everything one needs to understand life at the bottom of the middle class in an Indian city.

The lives of the residents intertwine and range from comic (2 wives sharing one kitchen is bound to lead to bickering) to tragic (the undercu
Dec 16, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While it has been several years since I read this, what I remember was its rawness, the honesty and beauty in its descriptions of lives in poverty, and the dreams and peeves of her female characters - their neighbors, potential or actual husbands, johns. I loved its rawness and its honesty for contributing to a feeling of emotional understanding for a place I have never been. The characters were more symbols than people sometimes, but I didn't get bored with them because the language kept them b ...more
Aug 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful prose, probably in search of a good storyline….

Revolves around a dying figure 'Vishnu' on the bottom step of a Mumbai apartment. It actually could be anywhere in India, unlike many other books where Mumbai appears as an integral character. Neither it is about 'Vishnu', who is there in the story as a mast, a constant reminder of a dying soul, the eventuality. The narration is non -chronological, jumping from one to other intertwined lives of quibbling neighbours, romantic teenagers, lo
Laura Broder
I didn't love it. I wanted to love it: I'd heard such good things about it (this was an NPR find). And with my recent trip to India it was so relevant. They talked about places I'd seen! But alas, the story didn't hold me.

The author tries to weave an intricate web of the lives of those who live in an apartment building where a man lays dying on the stairwell. Each chapter contains vignettes into each of their lives, as well as into the subconscious of the dying Vishnu. The story does provide an
Will Byrnes
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Julie Christine
There is much to admire about this novel- the writing is lyrical but clean, the characters lovable, human, flawed, maddening, the construction of the book flows like a spiral staircase- leaving you slightly dizzy but thrilled.

What keeps me from loving this book are these very elements: there are so many characters and plotlines that I was left wanting. Vishnu's slow death that was entwined with Hindu mythology was lost on me. I didn't have a sense of place, of Bombay. I felt that the women in t
Aug 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What an interesting book! I was just amazed at how EVERYONE in the apartment building was so wrapped up in their own issues and lives that they failed to acknowledge the fact that a man lay dying on the landing downstairs. On and on they fight and worry and carry on about who is using the most water in the shared kitchen and who is running off with who and their everyday lives. Poor Vishnu lays dying and no ones cares. Not one of them really wants to extend themselves past their own comfort zone ...more
Mar 25, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction

I enjoyed this so much I'm tempted to run out and get the second part of the planned trilogy, "The Age of Shiva," right away, but it would have to go to the far end of the taxi runway.

This novel, set in Bombay, centers on the life of the title character, a poor man eking out a living by running errands for the residents of an apartment building, where he lives on one of the landings. (He's not the only one. Another landing is occupied by "Radiowallah," a man whose life dream was to buy a transis
Jul 06, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a really nice, intimate book. It's a "day in the life" format. You bounce around from apartment to apartment and family to family over the course of about 48 hours. It has all the usual tragedy and pettiness that seems to be a hallmark of everything Indian I have ever read. And, as also seems typical, this is offset with some bright spot, some chance at enlightenment or redemption, or someone just being true to himself.

I kept comparing this reading to the challenge of readng Midnight's
Jan 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit-american
I enjoyed the book, but then I enjoy almost anything I read ... however, I'm making space for other books on my (real) bookshelves today, and this one is going ... particularly since I find that most of my friends were not more impressed than I was with the book. At this time I remember very little of the story, and don't have a burning desire to spend time re-reading it just to find out.

Sorry, Suri.
Mar 06, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Jane Austen fans looking for a new era and geography
Shelves: fiction, book-club
A blur of memories, times past, and dreams of Vishnu, an alcoholic who "lives" on the steps of a Mumbai apartment, and of all the residents of the building who are affected by his death.

In the beginning, the characters seem more like caricatures-- typical "bourgeoisie" with petty concerns and trivial quibbles. It could just as easily be one of those lighthearted American or British novels from the early 20th century. As the novel progresses, though, we get deeper insight into some of the charact
Mar 31, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The death of Vishnu without Vishnu would have made a much better novel in my opinion.

My beefs as related to Vishnu: The magical realism was lacking the finesse of, say, Allende and went on (and on)interminably; some of the sex scenes seemed gratuitous and bordering on violent (without acknowledging it as such); I wondered how exactly Vishnu managed to acquire the funds necessary to wine and dine his lady friend considering that he was an alcoholic landing-dweller?

The goings-on in the apartment
Feb 20, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Could not finish. Found characters loathsome, cartoonish, or both. Suspect accolades were a function of late 90s PC/ethnic trendiness among the liberal arts / Trader Joes set. Was unsurprised to find that the author is actually a math professor, given that his characters "exclaim" and "declare" rather than simply say what they need to say (which is usually predictable).

FWIW I did however have a craving for samosas when reading this. Maybe trader joes sells? ;) I no longer have easy access to the
Sep 29, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nicole by: Elizabeth
I was a pretty good book, however, I sometimes got the present confused with flash backs and imagination. It took me a while to get into it, and I thought the ending was unsatifying. You meet all these characters, then you do not find out what happens to them.
I loved this book. It is unique in the way it explores and reveals its characters, little by little advancing their lives and motivations. At first they are all stiltedly referred to by their formal names, Mr. Jalal, Mrs. Asrani. As we get to know them, to look at them through their own eyes and through the eyes of those closest to them, we see they become less stereotypical and more personal.

To me, the story is about love and marriage, what it means and how it develops and grows--or fails to. E
Apr 18, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: just-fiction
Actually, I'd classify this just as fiction more than as literary fiction.

What's good here is the 'Indian-ness' of the storyline and characters.

The story is a window into the intertwined lives of a three-story apartment building in Mumbai, and the thread that somewhat ties them together is the death process of a man who has the paid-for right to live on their stair landing and run errands for them. (This is based on a real-life situation from the author's past.)

What's interesting is that the au
Jan 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If pressed to say whether I liked this book, I would have to pause. Many of the characters are, as one reviewer put it, "perfectly awful." But in this exploration of faith, love, and grace, that's exactly Suri's point. The multi-story apartment building on whose steps Vishnu lies dying seems to be a Hindu version of Dante's 9 rings of Hell (or probably Purgatory). At the street level are the paanwalla and other vendors who are totally given to temper and appetite. The first floor dwellers aren't ...more
Apr 18, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A simple story about society and class in India, neatly written and very easy to follow. It reads like a soap opera at times, but the underlying stories are very real and believable. Its a very quick read.

In Hindu mythology, Vishnu is the "preserver", although this book is not about Hindu mythology at all. The author, Manil Suri, has suggested that it is the first of a trilogy of books and that the forthcoming novels might be titled "Life of Shiva" (the destroyer) and Birth of Brahma (the creato
Emily Iliani
Jun 01, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: home
It was a long draggy read and at some point I was simply reading for the sake of reading.

Would't go so far to say a waste of my time but it was not great. What did death of Vishnu manage to reveal is simply the complexity of a neighborhood and its superbely mundane daily life; of which I am sure I could absorb without spending time on a book such as this.

However, that all being said, I must say, if literature were indeed meant to reveal innermost complexity of humanrace, somehow this novel man
Aug 26, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sundarraj Kaushik
The whole book revolves around the happenings in a building in South Bombay. The book describes the daily life of the various tenants (all of whom seem to be retired and content to stay at home) in this building. All this is weaved around the death of a person named Vishnu who has been sleeping in one of the landings in the three storey building.
As Vishnu lies dying the tenants of the different apartments are in their own world, the wives who have to share a kitchen bickering among themselves, t
Fritz Graham
In all honesty, I was really looking forward to reading this book. Once i finished it, I felt a little unfulfilled. Maybe my lack of understanding about Hindu mythology contributes to my lack of satisfaction. Maybe the story's disjointed nature makes me feel less intelligent than i normally like feeling (if i'm gonna feel stupid about something, let it at least be something as complex as, coincidentally enough, Calculus 2, which to this day is the one math class at college that i did not finish ...more
Jul 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A novel set in an apartment building in Bombay. Vishnu, a homeless man who sleeps on the staircase in exchange for running errands for the tenants, is ill/dying/already dead – no one is willing to take the time out of their own interpersonal dramas to check. Various petty life crises occur during the two days the book covers - someone's daughter dates an inappropriate boy, a man mourns his long-dead wife, two families argue over the use of shared kitchen, a skeptical man tries to devote himself ...more
Apr 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book! The story circles around the man, Vishnu, who is essentially a squatter living on the porch of a small apartment house which houses 2 Hindu families and one Muslim family. Each family has had interaction with Vishnu over the years either hiring him as a servant or offering him charity and now he lays dying on the porch. What will these families do in response to this situation?

There is humor, there is Hindu mythology, there is Indian history that reflects on the legacy of one
Sean B
Mar 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I cannot remember the last book I read in which I smiled and laughed so much. I thought the author did an excellent job of creating each character; you get a very good sense of each person in the story. Suri descibes the scenes so well that you can easily picture what is taking place in the building.

It is an interesting glimpse into life in Mumbai. While providing plenty of humor, it also is a good critique of human nature and social issues in India (as well as some issues that are global in sco
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Manil Suri is an Indian-American mathematician and writer, most notable for his first novel, The Death of Vishnu.

He attended the University of Bombay before moving to the United States, where he attended Carnegie Mellon University. He received a PHD in mathematics in 1983, and became a mathematics professor at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

He still continues to hold this job even th
More about Manil Suri...

Other Books in the Series

The Hindu Gods (3 books)
  • The Age of Shiva (The Hindu Gods, #2)
  • The City of Devi (The Hindu Gods, #3)

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“What did religion do to people, to provoke such obstinancy, such hysteria - how did it push people to the stage of torturing themselves and killing each other? ” 9 likes
“What will happen to the flowers, now that you are gone? The earth that clings to the steps, the tulsi that begins to sprout. The colors that brighten the darkness of the stairs, the scents that perfume the air. Must I climb alone the petal-strewn trail of your descent?” 3 likes
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