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A Free Man

A True Story of Life and Death in Delhi

Aman Sethi (Author)


A 2012 New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice

An intimate portrait of an invisible man—a powerful story of one man’s life that contains multitudes.

Like Dave Eggers’s Zeitoun and Alexander Masters’s Stuart, this is a tour de force of narrative reportage.

Mohammed Ashraf studied biology, became a butcher, a tailor, and an electrician’s apprentice; now he is a homeless day laborer in the heart of old Delhi. How did he end up this way? In an astonishing debut, Aman Sethi brings him and his indelible group of friends to life through their adventures and misfortunes in the Old Delhi Railway Station, the harrowing wards of a tuberculosis hospital, an illegal bar made of cardboard and plywood, and into Beggars Court and back onto the streets.

In a time of global economic strain, this is an unforgettable evocation of persistence in the face of poverty in one of the world’s largest cities. Sethi recounts Ashraf’s surprising life story with wit, candor, and verve, and A Free Man becomes a moving story of the many ways a man can be free.

Book Details

  • Hardcover
  • October 2012
  • ISBN 978-0-393-08890-8
  • 5.8 × 8.6 in / 240 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide including Canada, Singapore and Malaysia, but excluding the British Commonwealth.

Other Formats

  1. Book CoverA Free Man: A True Story of Life and Death in Delhi


Endorsements & Reviews

“A deeply moving, funny, and brilliantly written account from one of India’s most original new voices.” — Katherine Boo, author of Behind the Beautiful Forevers

“Funny, poignant, and deeply moving, A Free Man is an extraordinary vignette into an extraordinary life.” — Siddhartha Mukherjee, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies

A Free Man is a brilliant capturing of the language and bloodstream of a city. Aman Sethi has made a book that’s remarkable in its voice and evocation.” — Michael Ondaatje, author of The English Patient

A Free Man is stunning. It reminds me of that Victorian masterpiece of investigative journalism, Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and London Poor. Aman Sethi ‘gets’ modern India better than any other journalist I know. Not only is he a remarkable reporter and storyteller, but he possesses a novelist’s ear for language, sense of the absurd, and perfect pitch. I’m bowled over, totally.” — Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind and Grand Pursuit: The Story of Economic Genius

A Free Man is a beautiful work of journalism, sympathetic and graceful. The author follows, and progressively befriends, a homeless day laborer in Delhi. What starts as classic ethnography becomes a gripping story, and ends as a homage to a lost friend.” — Esther Duflo, author of Poor Economics and MacArthur Fellow

“With A Free Man, Aman Sethi comes to the forefront of an extraordinary new generation of Indian nonfiction writers. His compassion and humor is matched by a fierce determination to tell the stories of ordinary Indians, too often forgotten in the scramble for the spoils of the economic boom.” — Hari Kunzru, author of Gods Without Men

“Funny and disturbing.” — Arundhati Roy, author of The God of Small Things

A Free Man makes no promise of a happy ending. Perhaps no book about contemporary Indian society can. But it delivers more. It takes readers on a journey they might otherwise not go on. And that the destination is neither secret nor hidden shows that sometimes what matters isn’t what’s beyond our reach. It’s what’s before our eyes.” — Sonia Faleiro, New York Times Book Review

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