Stephen Gill’s novels….



*Why (novel)

Vesta Publications, PO Box 1641, Cornwall, Ont.

K6H 5V6 Canada

ISBN: 0-919806-15-5, $10, PB, 1977


A thought-provoking novel that illustrates the frustrations     

and anguish of the protagonist, who moves in and out of

love affairs with married women, regretting and

self-condemning all the while that this is against his

principles. Why he repeatedly does so is a question that

sets the tone of the story.

     The location shifts from Ottawa and Montreal to Ethiopia,

giving insights into the way of life, the socio-political  structure,

 the educational system and the moral values of Ethiopia, a

country which is just a name to most nations.


EXCERPTS From the Interview By Prof. Dr. Sarangi that

Appeared in The Atlantic Literary Review, July-Sept. &

Oct. -Dec. 2004, vol. 5, No. 3-4, Pages: 164- 183


       My novel Why  is the story of   the  protagonist who gets in and out of  love affairs with married women. Why he does so sets the tone of the book. The story is also about boredom and the cultures of North America, Ethiopia and India.

       The story of Why  revolves  around Rubin Motard, who is born and brought up in Montreal, a city in  the province of Quebec.  When he is eleven years old, his mother elopes with a friend of his father. The only goal of his  father  is to make as much money as possible. A baby-sitter, who seduces him, raises Rubin. We meet Rubin later when he is an adult, in Ottawa, where he falls in love, one after another, with married women. A  question arises  why he always falls in love with married women.      

       After a while, he goes to Ethiopia on a teaching assignment. There he falls in love with the wife of his colleague. He meets there a  teacher from India. They  become good friends. This brings into the novel some features of   traditional love  in India. Ruben has affairs also with his maid, a divorcee. Ethiopia is shown as a rugged, natural country.

       Ruben returns to Canada after teaching in Ethiopia for three years. Towards the end, he is shown sketching a portrait of a woman. He is not satisfied with the sketch because it does not represent that woman. He destroys the sketch to start it again, without any success. While making a few trials, it dawns upon him suddenly that the sketch bears a few traits of his mother. It dawns upon him further that all the women he had loved resembled his mother. There the story ends, abruptly.

       On the one hand  Why  is a story of Rubin's running in and out of love affairs with married women. On the other,  it is a story of three cultures and their views towards love. I have attempted to show that love in North America is  intellectualized. I have tried to prove through incidents, discussions and dialogue that men and women cannot understand each other intellectually; a real understanding comes from the heart. I have tried to  illustrate that North American women intellectualize love whereas for Ethiopian women it is spontaneous as the stream flowing in the jungle is. In India  it is more or less  traditional.  I have compared the North American view of love with the Ethiopian view. The citizens of this African nation live close to nature and therefore their response to love is also natural-- it is spontaneous. I have compared these two views -- North American and Ethiopian -- further with the traditional  romantic love that exists in India.

       I had  tried the technique of ending the story abruptly before in most of my short stories. I have used this technique also in my subsequent novels. It is because I don't want my readers to feel relieved or satisfied after the story  is over--- I want them to feel a thirst-- I want to upset them-- I want my reader to think even after the narrative  is over. After all that  is life.  Concerning the question why the protagonist  falls in love with married women I can say  that  there is some clue in the novel.

       Protagonists of both these novels have  a weakness for whiskey and both novels end abruptly. Besides, mother plays  key roles in both novels, though this role is clearer  in Why  because  the elopement of  Ruben=s   mother  is  vital for the development of the story. It also ends with a note on  his mother when Ruben  discovers by chance that all the married women he had loved resembled his mother in one way or the other.  My next novel Immigrant  also opens and ends with a note on mother, but her presence is not vital for the progress of the plot.

       Time  plays  important parts in both the novels. Both novels  move forward and backward  in time. This happens when the protagonists  think of their past and future. Though I have tried to make  the transition slow and smooth, yet  it is difficult for an average reader  to move along with the time easily. I have decided not to employ this technique any more in my next novel. In other words, the story of my fourth novel will be moving only forward, making it easier to read.

      I have discovered that my novel Why  is liked mostly by males  whereas women, no matter which culture they are from, dislike the main character. I have also discovered  that mostly newcomers and those who wish to come to Canada  like Immigrant. White citizens do not feel comfortable reading this novel.

      When I  was writing Why, I was reading Dylan Thomas and James Joyce. Being under their influence, I wrote Why to be enjoyed at more than one level.  The part of the story that is set in Ethiopia becomes  fascinating when  I bring out the moral,  and culture values of that nation.