Oscar And The Lady In Pink


Third chapter of the Cycle de l'Invisible

These are the letters of a boy of ten addressed to God. They are found by 'Mamie Rose', the Lady in Pink of the title, who visits him in hospital in the pink uniform worn by nurses on the children's ward.
The letters describe twelve days in the life of Oscar and are filled with funny, moving characters.
These twelve days may be his last, but thanks to Mamie Rose, who forms a close and affectionate bond with Oscar, they are to become legendary.


« As a child I spent... »

As a child I spent a lot of time in hospitals. Not that I was often ill, but I used to accompany my father who worked as a physiotherapist in pediatric hospitals, homes for patients with cerebral palsy, and centres for the deaf and dumb. My instinct on those first visits was fear: fear of children who were different, fear of the illness that forced them to keep to their impersonal rooms.

'Is it catching?' I asked.
'I wouldn't bring you if you were at risk,' my father answered.

Though barely convinced, I got to know the boys and girls, and over the weeks, they became my friends. The education I received, as I held my father's hand, was an odd one. I grew up in a world where normality was not the norm, where illness was taken for granted and good health was unusual, a world where some patients disappeared, not because they had gone home but because their illness had carried them off.

Death for me quickly became familiar, a neighbour, a figure close at hand that prowled in our midst before it pounced. Contrary to so many children (and adults), it did not take me long to grow out of the belief that I was immortal.

With the ready intelligence of youth, those I met had fully adapted to this new life; in it, they had made their mark, they had their bearings and their pleasures. Far from being a retreat, hospital was somewhere to live. They proved this with a biting humour reflected in Oscar and the Pink Lady. They gave each other nicknames that cocked a snook at illness: Bacon for a child with terrible burns, Einstein for a boy with an abnormally large head. Some of the adults who visited were shocked at this, but it already seemed to me that mockery of this kind was a very healthy sign: what better weapon than jokes with which to confront the ineluctable and show the unbearable who was boss?

I also saw them in pain, sometimes the pain of illness, but above all the pain of loneliness due either to the absence of their parents, or, worse, to the inability of their parents to maintain relations with a sick child. A number of mothers and fathers were overwhelmed by what had happened to their offspring and had lost the ability to hold normal conversations or have fun with them. Some of them actually vanished, crushed by embarrassment, shame and remorse.
My father explained that there was a certain logic to this behaviour even if it was not always justifiable or justified. He overrode my indignation and forced me to see the other side, initiating me unwittingly into my career as a writer - someone who invents different characters, each with his or her own way of seeing the world.

Later as an adult, I again found myself in hospitals, sometimes sharing difficult times with friends and family, sometimes as a patient myself. Like Oscar, I knew what it was to have a fatal illness. Unlike Oscar, my life was saved. However, when I recovered (if, indeed, one ever does recover), I found that getting better was not that important. I even had the idea that there was something indecent about recovery: it is all too easy to forget the ones who don't recover.

This was the starting point for Oscar and the Pink Lady. You could say the book is about the obsession with the acceptance of illness and death as being more important than getting better. I spent years not daring to write this book; I was too aware that I was touching on a taboo subject: the subject of sick children. Did not Dostoevsky say that the death of a child makes it impossible to believe in God?
And yet Oscar writes to God. And yet, in the last letter, Mamie-Rose is not angered but thanks God for having brought Oscar into her life and made her love him. Of course she weeps at what is no more, but she has the strength to be glad about what has been. God is not only the recipient of these letters, He is the main character of the story, although naturally, in His own way, ambiguously, mysteriously. In the opening pages, Oscar does not believe in Him and only writes to Him to please Mamie-Rose.

However, the daily exercise of these letters is good for him, enabling him to distinguish between the essential and the incidental, the spiritual and the material; with every 'PS', he is forced to define what he really wants and forced, too, gradually to open up to other people and to life. Then it would seem that God answers him, although clearly, the child cannot be sure that the messages he receives come from God. Finally, in church, he contemplates the effigy of Christ and shares with Mamie-Rose a moment of mediation on the two kinds of suffering (physical and spritual), and this moment allows him to face the unknown in a different way. And then, one morning, the child thinks he receives a visit, one that teaches him a seminal lesson: 'that first realisation'.

Of course, we can't know any more than Oscar whether God exists and is bothered about us. But, real or imaginary, the child's mediation brings him serenity, love, appetite… it enriches his last days and makes his approaching end bearable. As one of my atheist friends said, 'Even if God is just this favour that man invents for man, that's quite a bit!' God or the best thing about man? Every individual will decide for him- or herself.

Oscar came to life in me from those first words. I now know that he lives for millions of people. I love him. I admire him for his honesty, his courage, his rejection of pathos and the energy that flows from him right to the end - even when he can no longer move, he can still think; I admire the way he grows in wisdom and never loses his generosity of spirit.

This little ten-year-old has become my model. I hope that when my turn comes to face the same situation, I shall show myself worthy of him.

Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt


L'Express - « Death and the little boy »

Death and the little boy: a hilarious, unhinging and searing metaphysical tale about suffering and cowardice; a powerful novella that reconciles sceptical materialism with the hope of faith and shows anyone with any doubts that 'illness is like death: it is a fact, not a punishment'. It is a bold card to play, but no fine speech or non-fictional work could convey the message so convincingly.

Oscar and the Lady in Pink is essential reading for anyone who has anything to do with a hospital, at whatever remove.

François Busnel

Le Pélerin - « A short masterpiece of supreme simplicity »

A short masterpiece of supreme simplicity and depth, a fable both moving and spiritual in every sense of the word. The little boy's winsome chatter is funny and thought-provoking in equal measure, going straight to the heart of some fundamental questions - happiness, death and the hereafter, for instance.

With his plays performed in thirty-five countries, Schmitt counts as one of the most outstanding authors of his generation. A Damascan experience in the desert one night in 1989 left him with a lasting faith that informs his work. In ten plays and five novels, he has cast a remarkable voice across the world of literary creation, more usually associated with scepticism. 'I don't write to persuade. But I do like making people think by telling a good story.' Saying complex things in simple words, speaking to the heart and investing the world with meaning - these are the hallmarks of Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt.

Jean-François Fournel

Questions de Femmes - « Oscar and the Lady in Pink is a story to win readers' hearts ... »

Oscar and the Lady in Pink is a story to win readers' hearts and linger in the mind long after the book has been closed. A short, sharp life lesson, full of emotion and humour.

Témoignage Chrétien - « A masterpiece »

Quite simply, a masterpiece. Funny, tender, caustic, Oscar and the Lady in Pink is a cocktail of hope for anyone confronting illness. A book for everyone, then.

Télé-Matin - France 2 - « Writers sometimes enjoy felicitous moments ... »

Writers sometimes enjoy felicitous moments when, in a few short pages, they are at the peak of their grace, style and themes. This book is a gem that will endure into the mists of time.

Françoise Xénakis

Psychologie - « A radiant book »

A radiant book. A pure moment of tenderness, a hymn to life, a battle won against death.

Violaine Gelly

Notes Bibliographiques - « Metaphysical questioning underpins all ... »

Metaphysical questioning underpins all Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt's work. He deals with it in a sparkling prose, luring readers on a journey that is sometimes bizarre, often funny and always stimulating. (…)

Overwhelmingly sensitive with no trace of morbidity, these letters go right to the heart of all that is most essential. An emotional masterpiece.

Chosen as " Book of the Month " by the editorial committee.

Sud-Ouest - « The dialogue between the former woman ... »

The dialogue between the former woman wrestler and the little boy are full of tenderness and feeling. The words of the dying child, and the energy and perspicacity of his visitor all revolve around the child's questions about God and suffering.

The replies of the 'lady in pink' are astonishingly transparent and sound.
A work of remarkable poignancy.

Isabelle de Montvert-Chaussy

Paris-Normandie - « The art of Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt can be as hard-hitting .... »

The art of Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt can be as hard-hitting as a well-aimed cobblestone (…) With Oscar and the Lady in Pink, however, he has chosen the course of searing delicacy. A small marvel that tugs at one's heartstrings.

Rémi Parment

La Dernière Heure (Belgique) - « Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt's tender, moving, light-hearted ... »

Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt's tender, moving, light-hearted, sometimes funny prose brings us twelve days in the lives of Oscar and 'Auntie Pink'. Twelve days that could be the last but which the characters invest with a sense of apprenticeship. Life is speeded up, stripped of everything useless and superfluous, and only love, friendship, fruitful optimism, sincerity and faith in life and in God are left.

A radiant philosophical fairytale that will inspire hope despite the gravity of its subject.

Isabelle Blandiaux

Echo (Genève) - « A real gem »

A real gem. Unprecedented depth and charm.

Le Matin (Lausanne) - « Quite simply ... »

Quite simply, a small masterpiece of concision, elegance and feeling.

Serge Bressan


  • In American English (USA),  published by The Other Press
  • In British English(UK), published by Groove Atlantic books
  • In Basque language, published by Ediciones Elkar
  • In Bulgarian, published by Editions Lege Artis Publishing House
  • In Bielarorussian, published by Societe Interloto
  • In Castillan, published by Ediciones Obelisco/Magoria 2005, translated by  Alex Arrese
  • In Chinese, published by The Eurasian Publishing Group
  • In Chinese (simplified characters), published by Chasse Litte
  • In Czech, published by Editions Garamond
  • In Danish, published by Bjartur Reykjavik, 2004, translated by Elisabeth Ellekjaer
  • In Dutch, published by Uitgeverij Atlas, 2004, translated by Eef Gratama
  • In Estonian, published by Varrak
  • In Finnish, published by Like Publishing 2005, translated by Marja Haapio
  • In Georgian language, published by Geoprint
  • In German, published by Ammann Verlag 2003, translated by Annette und Paul Bäcker
  • In Greek, published by Opera
  • In Hungarian, published by Europa Konyvkiado in 2004, translated by Gulyas Adrienn
  • In Icelandic, published by Bjartur Reykjavik , 2004, translated by Guorun Vilmundardottir pyddi
  • In Italian, published by Edizioni Rizzoli/Edizione Mondolibri spa/Scrittori contemporanei 2002, translated by Fabrizio Ascari
  • In Japanese, published by PH KenKjyujo
  • In Lituanian, published by editions Alma Littera
  • In Lettonian language, published by Janis Rozes
  • In Korean, published by Munhak-Segye sa
  • In Norwegian, published by Pantagruel Forlag 2003 and 2010, translated by Christine Amadou
  • In persian language
  • In Polish, published by Wyndawnictwo Znak 2004, translated by Barbara Grzegorzwska
  • In Portuguese, published  by Ambar/Porto 2004, translated by Julieta Monginho
  • In Portuguese (Brazil), published by Editoria Nova Fronteira/Rio de Janeiro 2003, translated by Bluma Waddington Vilar
  • In Romanian, Humanitas publishing 2007
  • In Russian, published by Azbuka, 2004
  • In Serbian, published by Laguna,  2002, translated by Ana Stosic
  • In Slovenian, published by Vale-Novak
  • In Spanish (Catalan), published by Editorial Cruilla
  • In Swedish, published by Storm Forlag/Pantagruel Forlag  2005, translated by Till Svenska and Asa Larson
  • In Turkish, published by Bilge Kültur Santa, 2004, translated by Bahadirhan Bozkurt
  • In Ukranian, published by Calvaria

Stage Productions

  • Argentina: Oscar y Mami Rose
    Translation: F & F Agencia Literaria, 2004
    Buenos Aires, Multiteatro, 2007 + national tour
  • Austria : Oskar und die Dame in Rosa
    Linz, Landestheater, 2007/08
    Salzburg, Kulturforum Hallein, 2007/08
    Wien, Theater Drachengasse, 2005
  • Autriche : Oskar und die Dame in Rosa
    Linz, Landestheater, 2007/08 et 2008/09
    Salzburg, Kulturforum Hallein, 2007/08 et 2008/09
    Wien, Theater in der Drachengasse, 2005
  • Belgium: Oscar et la Dame Rose
    Théâtre du Vaudeville, 2004 and national tour
    Comédie Claude Voltaire, 2004
    Whith Jaqueline Bir,  National Tour 2008 and 2009
  • Bulgaria: ????? ??? ?????? ? ??????
    Vratza, Dramatic Theatre, 2006/07
    Sofia, lectures at the Small theatre behind the canal, 2005/2006
  • Canada
    Théâtre du Rideau Vert, 2004
    Montreal, Théâtre du Nouveau Monde 2007 with Rita Lafontaine + national tour
  • China
    Hong-Kong, Sheung Wan Civic Centre Theatre, 2007
  • Chili
    Santiago, Oct 2007
  • Czesh Republic : Oskar a Ruzova pani
    Prague, Divadlo Miriam, 2006
    Théâtre Klicpenrovo, Jan 2008
  • Estonia
    traduction : Indrek Koff
    Th Rakvere, 2006/08
  • Finland
    Helsinki, City Theatre, 2005
    Joensuu kaupunginteatteri, 2007
  • France : Oscar et la Dame Rose
    Cado Orléans thanComédie des Champs-Elysée, 2003/04  with Danielle Darrieux and national tour
    Reopening with Anny Duperey and national tour 2005/06
    With Jaqueline Bir, Théâtre de la tête d'Or, Lyon, may 2008 and national tour 2008/09
  • Germany: Oskar und die Dame in Rosa
    Konzertdirektion Landgraf : National Tour 2007/09
    Aachen, Grenzlandtheater, 2004
    Berlin, Theater am Kurfürstendamm, 05/06
    Berlin, Werkbühne, 2004
    Bielefeld, Bühnen der Stadt, 2005
    Bonn-Bad Godesberg, Kleines Theater, 2005
    Cottbus, Staatstheater, 2005
    Dresden, Societäts Theater, 2005
    Erlangen, Das Theater Erlangen, 2005
    Essen, Uta Rotermund, 2005
    Freiburg, Theater im Marienbad, 2007/08
    Hamburg, Ernst Deutsch Theater, 2005
    Heidelberg, Zimmertheater, 2005
    Kiel, Bühnen der Hansestadt, 2004/05
    München, Komödie in Bayerischen Hof 06/07
    Münchner Tournee, 05/06
    Niedersachsen, Landesbühne Niedersachsen Nord 2007/08
    Neuss, Musikkeipe Hamtorkrug, 2005
    Neuwied, Landesbühne Rheinland-Pfalz
    Potsdam, Hans Otto Theater, 2005
    Rudolfstadt, Thüringer Landestheater 04/05 
    Stuttgart, Südwestrundfunk, 2005
    Ulm, Theaterei Herrlingen, 2005
  • Greece
    Athènes, Théâtre Ilisia-Volonaki, 2003
  • Israël
    Tel Aviv, Habimah National Theatre, 2004/05 with Leah König
  • Italy: Oscar e la dama in rosa
    Palermo, Teatro Massimo, 2004 with Valeria Valeri + national tour
    Roma, Teatro Vitoria, 2005 
  • Korea
    Kim Dong Soo Theatre Company, 2004
  • Lebanon
    Beyrouth, Monot Theatre, 2005
  • Pologne: Oskar i pani Ró?a
    Translation:  Barbara Grzegorzewska
    Szczecin, Teatr Wspó?czesny, 2004
    Katowice,  Teatr ?l?ski im. St. Wyspia?skiego, 2005
    Olsztyn, Teatr Jaracz, 2006/08
    Walbrzych, Teatr Dramatyczny, 2006/08
    Krajow, 2005
  • Portugal
    Lisbon- Teatro NacionalD. Maria II
    Jan 2008
  • Romania
    Translations: Paola Bentz-Fauci, Vasile Sirli
    Bucarest, Théâtre Metropolis, 2009
    Bucarest, Théâtre L.S.Bulandra, 2009
    Sibiu, Théâtre National Radu Stanca, 2009
  • Russia
    Translation: Irina Miakhova
    St-Petersbourg, Lensoviet Theatre , 2001, with Alisa Freindlich
    Orel, State Theatre for youth, 2004
    Moscou, Luni Theatre, 2006
    Omsk (Sibérie), L. Ermolaeva Theatre, 2005
    Tcheliabonsk, Naoum Orlov Theatre, 2005
    République Kahkaze, National Puppet Theatre Skazka, 2005
    Orsk, Orsk Drama after AS Puskin, 2005
    Kazan (République du Tatarstan), Compagnie Autograf, 2006
    Petrosavodsk (Carélie), Th de marionettes Tvortcheskaya masterskaya 2006
  • Serbia :  Oskar i Mama Roz
    Beogradsko Dramosko Pozoriste 2004
  • Slovakia
    Translation: Lydia Magerciakava
    Bratislava, 2005
  • Spain: Oscar y Mami Rose
    Translation: Juan Jose De Arteche, 2002
    2 national tours 2004/06
  • Sweden : Oscar och den Rosa Tanten
    Stockholm, Dramaten-Elverket, 2005 with Anita Wall
    Stockholm, National Theater, 2008 and 2009 National Tour, with Anita Wall
  • German-speaking Switzerland : Oskar und die Dame in Rosa
    Basel, Théâtre Basel 2005
    Winterthur, Kellertheater, 04/05
  • French-speaking Switzerland
    Genève, Théâtre Pitoeff, 2005
  • Turkey : Oscar ve Membeli Melegi
    Translation: Serap Babür
    Istanbul, Ali Poyrazoglu Tiyatrosu, 2003
    Izmir 2004 + tournée
    Istanbul, Kenter Tiyatrosu, 2005
  • Ukraine
    Donezk, Regional Adademic Ukrainian Music Dramatic Theatre, 2006
    Mariupol, Regional Russian Dramatic Theatre
  • United States of America: Oscar and the lady in Pink
    Los Angeles, Geffen Playhouse, 2006: Lectures by Angela Lansbury
    New Brunswick, George street Theatre Jan 2008
    New York, Florence Gould Hall, jan 2009