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Portraying Human Relationships

Girija Sharma

By Rana Nayar
Prestige Books, New Delhi, 2004, pp. 256, Rs. 500.00


For an author to remain popular for nearly four decades is a rare achievement. However, even rarer is the capacity to defy the label of being dated. Edward Albee is among those great literary figures whose plays have offended and enthralled the audiences alike. Given the power and range of his dramatic harvest, it is not easy to analyse his work austerely.   Rana Nayar adopts a refreshingly different standpoint towards Albee’s drama. Cutting across barriers of conventional methodologies, the study adopts an interdisciplinary approach. It takes into account every conceivable way human relationships can be examined. This gives the book a definite sociological flavour while making it highly readable.   The study begins with the presupposition that human relationships constitute the core of drama. Tracing the cultural and literary history of the age, Nayar quotes Malcolm Bradbury and James Farlene who attribute crises in human relationships to “cultural seismology of overwhelming dislocations.” Setting the tone of the book in a comprehensive introduction, Rana Nayar elaborates how relationships evolve: “This process has less to do with the perceptual changes . . . but more to do with slow imperceptible structures of mind that come about over a long period of time.” The book, thus, begins with the assumption that the shift in the gamut of human relationships is historical.   The Introduction situates Albee in the context of American drama, which unlike European drama is “a child of the twentieth century.” Nayar convincingly spells out three reasons why a study of human relationships in the context of American society, especially through Albee’s plays, can be a rewarding effort: “One, the magnitude and scale at which this particular society experienced the dislocation and destabilization in the past few decades ... Two, the historical experience of the frontier..., which has given American society a strange impulse towards remaking, reinventing and redefining itself.... Three, it is Albee, more than anyone else, who has the advantage of having lived through the times when the limits were constantly breached and plugged afresh.” Besides these three reasons, it is “the problematic of relationships that gives to the diverse body of his work, a sense of coherence as well as continuity.”   The study then evolves no less than six models “to facilitate a broader, generalized understanding of how relationships function in a work-a-day experience.” While going through six chapters based on six models of interpersonal relationships, one wonders as to the specific ...

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