Free Culture Book Club — Poles, part 4

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This week, our Free Culture Book Club continues reading Poles, a Tamil novel, from It’s Sixteen (பதினாறும் ெபற்று) to That One Number (அந்த ஒரு நம்பர்).

A pink chair sitting in front of a laptop saying "cinnamon(mint)" and a blue chair sitting in front of a workstation saying "i3wm(btw)" in an abstract office space with a visualized music score drifting through the background

To give this series some sense of organization, check out some basic facts without much in the way of context.

This should go without saying—even though I plan to repeat it with every Book Club installment—but Content Advisories do not suggest any sort of judgment on my part, only topics that come up in the work that I noticed and might benefit from a particular mood or head space for certain audiences. I provide it to help you make a decision, rather than a decision in and of itself.


The website describes the novel as follows.

Can a computer tell a love story? Nakiran has shown that it can be done. Madan and Kartika are the protagonist and heroine of this story. Linux connects them both. This is the summary of the story. After listening to the synopsis ‘Oh! Don’t think that’s it!’ Every page you turn in this story is full of unexpected twists and expected choices. Every young person who wants to fall in love will love this book. This book will bring love to every man who thinks that the time for love has passed. Anyone who loves poetic romance will love this book; This book will also appeal to the average person who is afraid to show love, ‘Why am I postponing all the exams because I am afraid that I will lose?’

I thought it was a book about Linux! You are giving up on love. You may ask, ‘Is it me?’ If you ask that, not only Linux, what is free software, how Unix was born, (Until how Unix became Unix), why Richard Stallman thought we should have free software, the operation of Linux from the Android phone in our hands to the Mars spacecraft sent by NASA to Mars, What are the basic Linux commands to learn? This book covers everything from the beginning to the end of Linux i.e. Ilexi and Linux Processes. “Linux is not just an OS, there is a history behind it,” Madan says at one point in the story. Readers of this book will surely feel that. After reading the book, every reader’s view and understanding of Linux will definitely change. That is the success of this book!

Love, communalism, rationality, anti-caste, screenplay, Nakeeran has given us so much that we disappear in all the places where he has put his hand. The care he has shown in giving this much and releasing it under a Creative Commons License has revealed to us his life that promise and life must be one.

It is said that even in the books of great writers who wrote technical books in Tamil, there is waste in the name of love. You will not see any waste like that in this book. Just as Linux speaks of freedom and rights, so do the storytellers of the book. Henceforth, those who write technical books in Tamil, Nakiran’s ‘Dhuruvangal 11=10|01’ will be a top-line rule for how to write a technical book. Nakeeran, who fed Linux by showing love to Madan-Kartika, should continue to give books like this. Such giving will be a great boon for the youth of Tamil.

As mentioned, Nakiran wrote this novel in Tamil. Since I don’t believe that I’ve even met someone who speaks Tamil—I believe that my past Indian colleagues all came from the west coast, so more likely Kannada or Malayalam, or further north, though I deeply apologize to any colleagues who might read this in the future whose hometowns I didn’t recognize—so I’ll need to muddle through this with machine translation.

Therefore, as usual for foreign works, take what I say with the proverbial grain of salt, because I may have gotten a bad translation that either spoiled a metaphor or made it sound like the author meant something that they didn’t.

Likewise, this work joins Redmine as one of the rare Free Culture works that we’ve seen that doesn’t come from an Indo-European tradition, to the extent that the end of the line tends to stop where people stop speaking Hindi. While loan words certainly exist, and the British occupation certainly influenced the direction of all local languages, I expect translators to have more problems with this than it had with, say, Quand manigancent les haricots, and I might not recognize unfamiliar storytelling forms.

What Works Well?

We haven’t had to deal with a dump of Linux trivia in this section. After the first half of the book, I came close to writing this off as having a real story.

Also…you know what? I think that I should lean into the fact (noted below) that I have no understanding of the plot, here. For this post’s teaser, I wrote this.

This week brings us even more confusion, as we attend but ignore a wedding, make some inappropriate comments with a cameo appearance by Josef Stalin, attend a conference, and have a medical scare.

And that sounds wild and fun; it also sounds like I’ve made it up, but go read it for yourself. Therefore, I should at least pretend that the book makes me feel that way, and blame the incoherence on the translation.

What Works…Less Well?

How did we get from Linux trivia to a wedding that we don’t get to see—not that we know anything useful about who got married—and a giant picture of Stalin at Kartika’s house? I have no idea what happened, and feel like I can only barely hang on as random things happen.

We also close out this section on a fairly insulting incident that seems completely pointless, other than as an attempt to shock the reader. But we also get what sounds like—and I may have gotten this wrong due to shoddy translation—a whole raft of bigotry to unpack, out of nowhere and, like Stalin, never to comment on again.


You can leave a comment on the page, and I see a QR code to donate to the Free Tamil E-Books website, but I don’t know how much contact they have with the author, unfortunately.

What’s Adaptable?

As probably mentioned in a prior installment, I always worry about the brand names in this book, because they could represent local brands that don’t have a strong Internet presence, or—like the Linux commands that I have occasionally featured—may come from bad or excessive translation, rather than authorial intent. However, the book at least appears to mention companies named Evolcom, Velon, and Averada, in either the information technology or industrial computer hardware sectors. The name Averada might replace “Big Service Company,” if I understand the dialogue correctly.


We’ll finish Poles, next week, reading from To Agree (உடன்கட்ைட) to End (முடிவுைர).

As mentioned previously, by the way, the list of potential works to discuss has run low, so I need to ask for help, again. If you know of any works—or want to create them—that fit these posts (fictional, narrative, Free Culture, available to the public, and not by creators who we’ve already discussed), please tell me about them. Every person who points me to at least one appropriate work with an explanation will receive a free membership on my Buy Me a Coffee page.

Anyway, while we wait for that, what did everybody else think about the story so far?

Credits: The header image comes from the book’s cover, under the same license as the rest of the book.

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