I Am a Free Man
The narrator keeps thinking about his wife who is missing and was last seen with a man named Mikhail. Police arrests him but he is released soon after a woman whom he had been sleeping with provides witness to his presence. He wonders about his life before he met her, his unconventional journey and how she encouraged him to be a writer. He believes she has left him as she had taken her passport and some other belongings.
He doesn’t want to find her and he has done this ritual before with his other wives and comes to realize that the two had been growing apart. This led him to wonder if he, and she, were free from their spouse, what did that meant, freedom to explore life or loneliness.
There is much scandal around Esther’s disappearance, and the author starts obsessing about her, calling her, his Zahir, something that is obvious. People keep piling around him due to different reasons but mostly because of the scandal. He soon learns to control his obsession around people, gets in a new relationship with an actress, and after much dwelling gets inspired from a cathedral restoration and writes a new bestseller, talking about his love to his wife.
At a book-signing, he meets Mikhail and after Marie’s encouragement decides to confront Esther. He decides to meet him at a restaurant where he held weekly meetings discussing love and stories. He invites Mikhail for lunch and tries to persuade him to take him to Esther. Mikhail has an epileptic fit and leaves. The narrator goes to another weekly meeting with Marie, where he tells his views on how the train tracks symbolize an ever-stable relationship. Later that night, he convinces Mikhail to tell him the address of Esther. However, Mikhail tells him that he is told by the Voice that the time is not right.
The next day, he has an accident. He takes the accident as a sign that the time was not right to meet Esther. He realizes that Esther was much better than him and to get back with her he would have to be as much evolved as her.
He decides to attend more ‘meetings’ with Mikhail and learns about love and the sadness his wife had been feeling in their relationship. After an incident where he walks over thin ice and doesn’t get wet, he takes it as a sign to see Esther. Mikhail convinces him to take him along. The narrator and Marie say goodbyes when they realize that narrator still loves his wife.
The Return to Ithaca
The narrator arrives in Kazakhstan along with Mikhail and get in touch with Dos whose grandfather Esther had been seeking to understand her restlessness. The three travel to steppes to a village where Esther is learning to make carpets and teaches French. Dos has the narrator choose a new name for his experience. He chooses the name ‘nobody’ alluding to Ulysses. He finally meets Esther after having been re-discovered the concept of love.
He finds her waiting for him and informs him of having taken Dos as a lover and of being pregnant by another man. The narrator gets heartbroken but informs him that his editor wants him to cover another war, which her feels she shouldn’t do given her condition. However, she just asks for a second horse to leave.