Manil Suri, Mathematics, in the News

thecityofdeviMathematics Professor Manil Suri has been in the news recently, as his latest novel, “The City of Devi,” hits bookstore shelves.

On Wednesday, February 6, the Baltimore City Paper published a review of the book, saying that it “is “streamlined and cinematically purified… by narrowing his focus and heightening the emotional tenor of the city, he manages to give it a mythological quality.”

Suri also spoke with the Baltimore Sun for a February 3 interview entitled “UMBC mathematician Manil Suri publishes his third novel.”  This novel completes a trilogy about hindu dieties that Suri began with his 2001 book, “The Death of Vishnu.”  Speaking of this book, Suri said, “When I first started thinking about the trilogy, I always had an arc in my mind of the past, the present and the future… But my book about the future was an evolution. It took me 12 years to write. Even when I got to the midpoint, I didn’t know if it was going to be about Brahma or about Devi. Every story needs a creator. As the most well-known, Brahma was the most logical face to put there. But when you dig deeper, the true Hindu trinity really is Vishnu, Shiva and Devi, who represent the three different strands of Hinduism. Brahma was a later addition. He came in during the post-Vedic period, when people tried to tie those strands together. Because Devi has nine incarnations, she can be anything: the destroyer, the creator and the symbol of art. But, Brahma’s mythology is such that he doesn’t get activated until you’re at the end of a cycle. If I had been writing a post-apocalyptic novel, he might have been the right person.”

Suri also spoke to NPR’s Weekend Edition, where he talked about how leaving India has affected his writing about the country. “I grew up in like one room of a large apartment, and we were kind of the only Hindu family in an apartment that had three families of Muslims, so you know, that’s why I think the Hindu-Muslim thing keeps coming up in my novels. I don’t think I would have had the space or the quiet to actually concentrate on fiction. I do think that coming here I can sort of see the country much more — much more like a globe, like you would see the moon from the Earth or vice versa. And I think especially with this novel, I can see these relations like, OK, [India is] sitting there next to Pakistan and China, you know, all three of which are armed with nuclear weapons. So that’s one of the advantages,” he said.

Finally, on February 6, Suri spoke with WYPR’s “Maryland Morning” for a segment called “When a Mathematician Turns Novelist.”  Host Tom Hall pointed out that the theme of a trinity appears often throughout the book, and Suri admitted that even he didn’t pick up on the theme until late in his writing process. “I actually gave up this novel, and I started a new novel, and I told my agent ‘This is not going to work.’ I even had a mathematical proof that this novel could not be completed. .. and then when I saw the number three, I realized that these three characters have to somehow come together,” Suri said.