Award-winning author and scholar Manil Suri discussed how fiction can illuminate a culture’s richness during a presentation at the University of Central Florida.
Suri spoke to an audience of more than 100 people on Tuesday. His presentation, “Capturing India,” was organized by the UCF Global Perspectives Office as a part of the 2010-2011 “India Speaker Series.”
Writing novels is a hobby for Suri, who was named by Time magazine as a “Person to Watch” in 2000. Fiction is as useful as non-fiction, he said, noting they both have the power to provide a “kaleidoscope of different feelings, characters and events that might emerge from a culture or country.”
Suri told the audience that while growing up in Mumbai, formerly Bombay, he noticed a constant mingling of new and old traditions. He intends for his novels to be a snapshot of India and Indian life.
His first novel, “The Death of Vishnu,” recounts the fight over space in an apartment building in Mumbai. His second novel, “The Age of Shiva,” focuses on India’s historical development and is largely based on Suri’s parents’ experience in post-independence India.
“The Age of Shiva” is about women asserting themselves in a male-dominated society and India’s “growing up” and coming out in the international sphere, he said.
Suri said he had no intention of writing a trilogy from the outset, but found through research that his first novel’s main character roughly embodied one of the gods of the Hindu trinity. The theme lent itself to a second book, and a third that will focus on India’s future is in the works.
His forthcoming novel will be set in the future, and will include Suri’s ideas of what India’s future might look like.
Suri also spoke to the audience about the ongoing clash in India between tradition and modernity. In India, Suri said, it is hard to tell where religion starts and culture ends.
In addition to the Global Perspectives Office, sponsors and partners of this event included The India Program at UCF, The Anil and Chitra Deshpande India Program Endowed Fund, Lawrence J. Chastang and the Chastang Foundation, LarsonAllen LLP, the UCF Global Peace and Security Studies Program, the UCF Political Science Department, the UCF International Services Center, UCF LIFE and the Global Connections Foundation.