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The Rights Of Desire Paperback – 6 Sep 2001


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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (6 Sept. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099285738
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099285731
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 427,940 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Andre Brink's The Rights of Desire concerns a retired librarian's infatuation with his young lodger. Ruben Olivier, as the ageing lecher, is resolutely unsympathetic. He pathetically spends weeks sifting through the dust in his basement because the beloved's navel ring has fallen through a crack in the floorboards. When Tessa, the lodger brings home a black man, Zolani, he nearly has a heart attack, musing after he has recovered his breath: "It was unworthy and I knew it. Yet how could I not wonder about it?--Zolani is welcomed into her bed but I am still denied ... her exasperating and prodigal beauty, distributed like alms among the poor. Only I remained denied." His relationship to literature and music is similarly self-aggrandizing and precious: "I went to Spain with Don Quixote--I still go every year in the summer--and to St Petersburg with Dostoevsky every winter. In between, I go to Paris with Balzac, or with Zola if I feel up to it." It is as difficult to like Tessa, who, in addition to being a little bit slutty and nutty is also a compulsive liar.

Cluttered around their doomed but mutually sustaining love affair is the atrocious exhibition of the white post-apartheid narration of the suburbs. Olivier's best friend is brutally murdered and failing to recognise the crumpled pile of rags on the side of the road Olivier drives by. Tessa narrowly escapes being gang raped in the Newlands forest. The novel equivocates between claiming that all this sex and violence is a function of contemporary social collapse or may simply be an expression of the timeless beauty and violence of Cape Town. Woven into the story of Ruben and Tessa is the story of Antje of Bengal, a 17th-century slave girl, whose ghost haunts the house and the story of Magrieta, Olivier's housekeeper, who is forced to flee her home after an episode of township violence. At times over-ripe, this novel is at it most compelling in its characterisation of this pair. --Neville Hoad --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"The Rights of Desire is a book rooted in a place and a time where collective reality is taking a battering and where people are having to rely on themselves to make sense of what is coming into shape. Out of chaos always comes interesting art, and Brink is an excellent weather vane" (Sunday Express)

"A story that keeps one guessing until the end... An intelligent and gripping novel" (Literary Review)

"Achingly beautiful and moving... This is a splendid novel by a master of the craft" (Scotsman)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By docread on 26 Feb. 2002
Format: Paperback
Set in contemporary Capetown,this a sensitive portayal of an ageing widower trying to make sense of his life while being consumed by a passionate obsession,increasingly sexual, for his young free spirited lodger.The narrative is punctuated by ghastly descriptions of gratuitous acts of violence, which eventually engulf all those he feels close to. The brutalisation of Post Apartheid society, echoes that of a bygone slave owning society. The protagonists are haunted by the ghost of a young slave woman,executed brutally in ambiguous circumstances by the colonial authorities. The author skillfully weaves the themes of obsessive desire,guilt,nostalgic loss and redemption through love. However the recent tragic history of his land casts a heavy shadow as the characters drift aimlessly through a world in transition.
Though not as grim, the novel invites comparison with another literary product from SA, namely Cootzee's Disgrace,which treats very similar themes.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 23 Jan. 2003
Format: Paperback
It is a measure of Brink's genius that this compulsively readable novel seems so straightforward, at least at first, when one is deeply engrossed in the twists and turns of the main characters' changing relationship. Primarily a love story, it chronicles the complex, sometimes masochistic, interaction between Ruben Olivier, a lonely former librarian in his sixties, and Tessa Butler, an attractive free spirit, almost thirty, whom he has taken into his home and who claims to have deep feelings for him. But while Tessa enlivens his days with her attentions and conversations, she also toys with him, flaunting her numerous relationships with other men at night. As Tessa settles in, Ruben finds his once-orderly and peaceful world shattered, the memories with which he has consoled himself after his wife's death destroyed, and his view of himself and the world permanently changed.
The book is deceptively many-layered, for while Brink is exploring rights and desires in the relationship of Ruben and Tessa, he is also simultaneously exploring rights and desires in a political sense. In the newly independent South Africa, the formerly oppressed black majority is now in power and asserting itself. In the confusion of the power transfer, many young men, apparently feeling that "might makes right," have formed marauding gangs, attacking, raping, killing, and essentially doing whatever they desire, their only motivation being revenge for past injustices. No one is safe, and Ruben and Tessa, who had hitherto ignored the danger even when it struck close to home, find that they are not immune as they face a defining moment of terror.
The atmosphere of the novel is dark, the mood of violence is palpable, and a sense of foreboding lies heavily over all.
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By Mr. D. James on 7 Sept. 2012
Format: Paperback
André Brink, The Rights of Desire

André Brink is Professor of English at the University of Cape Town as well as being a prolific novelist and winner of many awards, being twice shortlisted for the Booker Prize. This is my first acquaintance with him and, although not over fond of the supernatural in otherwise realistic novels, I found The Rights of Desire an engaging read. Set in post-Mandela South Africa, it is suffused with a sense of displacement and impending violence.

Ruben Olivier, a librarian forced into retirement, has lost his wife, his best friend and is about to lose his second son to Canada, the first having already settled in Australia. But, stubbornly and against his family's best advice, Ruben insists on remaining loyal to the spirit of his country in chaos, where gangs and mobs proliferate in both rural and urban areas, the police are hamstrung by fear of reprisals, bribery is a way of life for the middle class and crime the only hope for the ever-increasing numbers of the poor. When his sons finally manage to persuade their father, who has already suffered a heart attack, to at least take in a lodger for comfort and security, he tells them. `I'm not living on my own. I have my ghost to look after me when Magrieta's not here.' Magrieta is his old nursemaid who flits from the old Victorian house Ruben has lived in all his life to visit friends and family and report back to him the latest scandals and atrocities in the town. The ghost is Antje of Bengal who was brought to the Cape as an infant slave in 1696, and became the much abused mistress of Willem Mostert, who had her from a friend who bought her at a slave auction.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 7 Mar. 2002
Format: Paperback
For me this book is yet another example of Andre Brink's genius. Taking the changing political and social climate of South Africa as its backdrop, this novel explores the new, the old, the factual and the believed - and how each interacts and depends on the other. I could not put it down. Thank you Andre Brink!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 8 reviews
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Compulsively readable, thematically complex. 24 Mar. 2001
By Mary Whipple - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
It is a measure of Brink's genius that this compulsively readable novel seems so straightforward, at least at first, when one is deeply engrossed in the twists and turns of the main characters' changing relationship. Primarily a love story, it chronicles the complex, sometimes masochistic, interaction between Ruben Olivier, a lonely former librarian in his sixties, and Tessa Butler, an attractive free spirit, almost thirty, whom he has taken into his home and who claims to have deep feelings for him. But while Tessa enlivens his days with her attentions and conversations, she also toys with him, flaunting her numerous relationships with other men at night. As Tessa settles in, Ruben finds his once-orderly and peaceful world shattered, the memories with which he has consoled himself after his wife's death destroyed, and his view of himself and the world permanently changed.

The book is deceptively many-layered, for while Brink is exploring rights and desires in the relationship of Ruben and Tessa, he is also simultaneously exploring rights and desires in a political sense. In the newly independent South Africa, the formerly oppressed black majority is now in power and asserting itself. In the confusion of the power transfer, many young men, apparently feeling that "might makes right," have formed marauding gangs, attacking, raping, killing, and essentially doing whatever they desire, their only motivation being revenge for past injustices. No one is safe, and Ruben and Tessa, who had hitherto ignored the danger even when it struck close to home, find that they are not immune as they face a defining moment of terror.

The atmosphere of the novel is dark, the mood of violence is palpable, and a sense of foreboding lies heavily over all. The relationship of Ruben and Tessa is unsettling, strange, perhaps even clinically sick, but it is powerfully seductive in a Nabokovian way. The ghost of a slave, Antje of Bengal, 300-years-old, walks the house, haunts the inhabitants, and keeps them and the reader constantly on edge. Throughout the action, Brink's language is so fluid, his first-person narrative so smooth, and his sense of timing so keen that his style achieves an elegance few others could achieve, given the sometimes bizarre subject matter. This is a thematically complex tale of many interconnected relationships, and it's fascinating. Mary Whipple
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
This book is deceptively about South Africa 14 July 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
and while I may be accused of missing the point, I found the relationship between Ruben and Tessa extremely annoying. I bought the book thinking it would deal more with the South Africa of today, but even that was trite, with violence and corruption the two prevalent elements. As I read on, Ruben became a joke of an old man and Tessa a sadistic tease. I did enjoy A Dry White Season and why this author has decided to sink into the musings of an old man rather than explore more about South Africa and the myriad layers of its society after apartheid is a mystery to me. I must admit that I did read through it avidly and with some anticipation, assuming there would be some deeper meaning. If there is, I will have to have it explained to me because I didn't find it. It is well written and easy to read but certainly no more than that. One would be advised to read Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee instead.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The Rights of Revenge. 11 Jun. 2005
By Hadeel Altreiki - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is the first book I read for Andrea Brink and probably the 1st ever book for a South African writer, if my memory is still intact( Alan Paton being the exception).

This is probably one of the most complex and daunting novels that have been written between 2000 and 2005, and its complexity lies deep within the ethos of the issues and subjects tackled. It is not merely a novel about post apartheid south Africa, but constitutes a conscience and often bloody account of not only South Africa from 1930, but of human nature in general. It's a narration of fanatical Christianity, of the despair and hope of many Boers, of the often harsh daily realities that are often ignored or merely trespassed in modern historical narration of that historic epoch. The story centers around two main characters Ruben and Tesse; the former is a retired librarian, who has witnessed the rise and decline of various South African generations and political ploys, while the later is a young 30sh old bohemian, who for better or worse is living the turbulences of a changing world and society. Their lives intertwine and are linked for a short period of time, yet despite the brevity of their relation, they both share an intenseness that renders returning to a state of normalcy quite unbearable or unachievable. The energy and youth of Tesse forces the main male protagonist to confront not only his present old age, but also to soar back in time to his lonely childhood, on a desolate farm, his initiation into adulthood, his melancholy and often hypocritical marriage, that was marred by dismay and deception, to his current status as an old man, living in an empty house, surrounded by notes never to be completed and articles never to be written, with the sole presence of an ancient ghost murdered 200 hundred years ago. Perhaps this ghost is only a reflection of all the occupants miseries, and phantoms of sadness. Anjtee even though witnessed by various generations of passers by in the house, is merely a reflection of the conflict between human desire, sin, a need to reconcile differences and simply move on.

This is quite a complex novel, multiply layered and quite extravagant in both style and manner, nevertheless, it surely needs some careful reading and contemplation.
a delight all the way 5 Oct. 2001
By vb - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I recently read Coetzee's Disgrace, and while I do think it well written and worthwhile, I found it to be a cold, harsh book, with the protagonist quite disagreeable to the bitter end.

In The Rights of Desire, Brink weaves a world I loved to be part of, despite the violence. The house and its people -- the three living and the one a ghost -- became my welcome hangout as well. Despite all the hearbreak and the pervasive sense of unease, I also felt cradled by a world of sensuality, deep connection between human beings, and lust undivorced from loving.

Coetzee ends with love refused. Brink ends with love affirmed. I am filled with gratitude for having been there.
A cautionary tale for older men . . . 9 Sept. 2010
By MydaRay - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ruben Olivier, 65 and some years a widower, is understandably gaga over Tessa Butler, 29, his new boarder and quite the tease. I continued reading out of loyalty to author Brink, an enjoyable journeyman novelist of imagination and skill from South Africa. Behind the almost intolerable story of the humiliations inflicted on pathetic, masochistic Ruben by his capricious tormentor is the larger theme of a centuries old racial conflict and its victims. 'Compulsively readable', yes, but, as told by Ruben through his journal, a most unpleasant portrayal of a man who has lost his dignity to the times and a much younger woman.
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