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A Free Man Audiobook, by Aman Sethi Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Aman Sethi Narrator: Vikas Adam Publisher: Blackstone Publishing Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2012 ISBN: 9781481573252
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (302 ratings) (rate this audio book)
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Like Dave Eggers' Zeitoun and Alexander Masters' Stuart, this is a tour de force of narrative reportage—an intimate portrait of an invisible man.

Mohammed Ashraf studied biology in college, and after college he learned how to repair television sets, cut suit lengths, and slice chicken. He has lived in Mumbai, Calcutta, Hyderabad, Surat, and Patna, but this evening he is stoned on a street in Sadar Bazaar in North Delhi. The morning shall bring hangovers, whiskey breakfasts, and possibly answers to the lingering questions that haunt Ashraf. How did he get here? Why is he the way he is? And is there a way back home?

In this compelling account of the life of an itinerant laborer, Aman Sethi brings Ashraf vividly alive and illuminates the lives of countless others like him. Wry, humorous, and insightful, A Free Man is an unforgettable portrait of an invisible man in his invisible city.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “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 deeply moving, funny, and brilliantly written account from one of India’s most original new voices.”

    Katherine Boo, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and author of Behind the Beautiful Forevers

  • 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, New York Times bestselling 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, New York Times bestselling author of A Beautiful Mind

  • “As a writer, Sethi has a keen eye for detail and a sense of perception that succeeds in drawing the reader into the murky underbelly of Ashraf’s world. Laced with black humor, A Free Man is a clever study of contrasting lives that amuse and perturb in equal measures.”

    The National

  • “A moving and irrepressible work of narrative reporting.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “Journalism at its finest. Narrator Vikas Adam tells the story of these men as though they were characters in a novel. Adam brings the dialogue to the listener with the cadence and liveliness of authentic speech. He uses a heavy, affected South Asian accent to render the English speech of the masdoor, or building laborers. But the listener is given a break from this style in the narrative, which is delivered with a much lighter touch. In this contemporary story of migration, economics, and socialization, these invisible workers come alive.”


  • “Alternately sad, defiant, carefree, and understated, this journey into a world hidden in plain sight is well worth taking.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “A darkly comical and eminently readable work of narrative journalism that brings readers into the heart and soul of old Delhi.”


  • “[Aman Sethi’s] compassion and humor is matched by a fierce determination to tell the stories of ordinary Indians.”

    Hari Kunzru, award-winning author

  • One of the 2012 Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books: Biography
  • Selected for the Barnes & Noble Discover Award
  • A Kirkus Reviews “New and Notable Title” for Nonfiction, October 2012

Listener Reviews

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  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Abha | 2/17/2014

    " I loved this powerful book written in a very engaging manner about the life story of a mazdoor (day laborer) in Delhi. It is a brilliant narration and an eye-opener. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Supriya | 2/11/2014

    " It's just that good. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sidd | 2/6/2014

    " Read this book. Reflect on what you've read. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Manish | 2/4/2014

    " Armed with a Sarai CSDS Fellowship, Sethi ventured into the labour market of Sadr Bazaar and befriends Ashraf. What follows is a series of conversations and journeys of discovery which expose the underbelly of Delhi, or any metro for that matter. But all said and done, I somehow didn't find the book riveting or engaging. The only lasting memory is probably going to be the various deals that happen in Sadr Bazaar day in and day out. Now on, a painter or a mason will no longer be just a painter or a mason for me, thanks to this book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Aditya | 1/19/2014

    " Indian non-fiction is, in fact, in a much healthier state than Indian fiction. A Free Man is one of the most compelling arguments for this hypothesis. It lays bare the world of the Delhi itinerant labourer, but never gets lost in idle rhapsodising or armchair politics. What it does instead is to lose itself into the rhythms of its subject- this is about Md. Ashraf the mazdoor, not Aman Sethi the writer. Special mention must be made of the excpetional use of language in the book- while it's obvious that Sethi can write the breathtaking sentences when he wants to, he lets Ashraf and his fellow mazdoors take centrestage, lets their language, with its indulgences, its colloquilisms and its non-sequiturs take over. A memorable read indeed. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Judy | 12/15/2013

    " A sensitive and respectful treatment of the life of a poor laborer in Delhi. The author delves patiently until bits of the story emerge. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Elham | 11/24/2013

    " I appreciated Sethi's coverage of the folks you hardly read about - day laborers, painters, "lawaris." The diversions were distracting and hard to get through; Ashraf is the heart of the novel and the book would've held my interest if Sethi stuck to Ashraf's story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kimberly | 8/17/2013

    " I obtained this book from a first-reads give-away. I really enjoyed the prose. Sethi did an outstanding job of using the words to really put the reader in the context of the book. The story was woven extremely well. Overall, I would recommend it! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Älladinê | 6/1/2013

    " A Free Man: A True Story of Life "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Saloni | 5/25/2013

    " Brilliant, entirely. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ferrer | 4/10/2013

    " Life, It moves even without us doing anything. Funny if we could look it that way but for me it's seriously true. I like to keep the funny side. It keeps me inspired. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Megan | 1/28/2013

    " Like A Fine Balance, but a non-fiction version. I liked how the author (who is also a journalist) really got involved with his subjects, drinking with them, gaining their trust, establishing friendships; so his book reveals the real lives of laborers in Delhi and India. Very interesting read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Thaths | 1/28/2013

    " A well-written, compassionate view of migrant laborers in Delhi and their lives (what do they do, how do they live their lives, where are they from, how did they end up there) "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Arun | 12/10/2012

    " A very good book -- especially the first parts. Very funny and informative there. "

About the Author

Aman Sethi, born in Bombay in 1983, studied chemistry in Delhi and attended the Columbia School of Journalism. He is a correspondent for the Hindu and the recipient of a Red Cross Award for his reportage.

About the Narrator

Vikas Adam is a classically trained actor with numerous credits in stage, film, commercials, and television, in addition to his over one hundred recorded audiobooks. An Audie Award nominee, he has garnered many awards for his narrations, including AudioFile Earphones Awards and various Best of the Year lists.