Given the contents of this book, I would say that the title seems just a little curious, or rather slightly off the mark, despite the fact that desire (in this case of an older man for a young woman) is very much a part, and indeed one of the main themes of the book. Yet I am not sure that this theme is the central one. The narrator, himself a writer now aged over 60 and living alone, becomes obssessed with a young and slightly unpredictable woman for whom he provides a room in his large and now empty house (his wife is dead and his sons are grown-up and living elsewhere). And much of what happens to him afterwards results more or less from this obsession. But not only, as the theme of contemporary violence in South Africa is perhaps even more central to the way the book develops. My nit-picking with the title is perhaps more about the term "rights". Desire can provide no "rights" over the person desired, and this is clearly born out in the book. So why did Brink choose this title, rather than, say, "The results of desire" or "The powers of desire"? Or indeed something completely different. We will perhaps never know.
Unlike his compatriot Coetzee, about whom I wrote recently on this blog in connection with his published correspondence with Paul Auster, Brink has remained in South Africa where he lives and teaches in Capetown, and has also retained strong links with his mother tongue, Afrikaans. Indeed Brink, along with other authors like Breytenbach, worked within this language to speak out against Apartheid, and one of his novels (Looking into Darkness) was the first to be banned by the Afrikaaner government during this period.
Other important characters are a ghost (who is so revealing of the horrific violence and injustices of the past) and Magrieta, the narrator's imposing and incredibly wise housekeeper who has suffered more than her fair share of violence too, but who remains steadfast and philosophical until (almost) the end of the book.
On the desire aspect of title, the ageing narrator's desire for the younger woman, Tessa, is described both openly and subtly. She is young (about 30), free and beautiful, but also lost and given to mythomania. Ruben, the retired teacher and writer, is refined and complexed, but is also able, in his lucid moments, to face the facts of the situation, without being at any time able to fully understand the object of his love. His behaviour towards Tessa oscillates to the rhythm of the ambiguity of the situation: he acts at times like a father towards her, at others like a jealous and rejected lover.They also have a friendship, of sorts, depite the destruction that she causes in his life. In a way, the best title might have been "The destructions of desire".
I may well read more of Brink's work