In this world, there are people with hearts so pure that they help lighten up the world. South African writer Damon Galgut’s novel “The Promise,” which won the Booker Prize in 2021, is about such people.
Amor is the youngest daughter of the Swart family, who lives on a farm. The dying wife asks her husband to give ownership of the family’s house to Salome, the black domestic servant who looked after her for her entire life and throughout her illness. The husband promises to do so.
However, Amor’s father has no intention of fulfilling the promise after his wife’s death. He says that giving ownership to a servant makes no sense and it is illegal for a black person to own property. He does not even budge when Amor reminds him that it was her mother’s will. The son, Amor’s brother, is the same way. He knows he is obligated to deliver the promise, but he doesn’t. After a time, the father, son, and eldest daughter all pass away. Only Amor, who became a nurse and cared for HIV patients in another city, is left.
Amor can finally fulfill the promise. It has taken 33 years to give ownership of a worn-down house that leaked in rainy weather. Amor feels remorseful that it has taken so long to deliver the promise. She also decides to give her share of her father’s inheritance to Salome. She will continue her life as a nurse looking after patients passing away.
What makes Amor behave differently from other family members? How does she decide to give up her belongings and devote herself to patients? What makes her an ethical being? One may never know. Her selfless behavior might come voluntarily deep from her soul. Some such people lighten up the dark world and make it a worthy place to live. That is perhaps what makes the world beautiful.