Life is not just a very cool gift. It is something that a person receives on loan from God. That’s the conclusion of Oscar, the child hero of “Oscar and the Lady in Pink,” a novel written by Franco-Belgian playwright, short story writer, and novelist Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt.
Published in France in 2002, the epistolary novel Oscar and the Lady in Pink quickly established itself as the most popular book of Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt. A short novel, the volume explores two difficult subjects, namely suffering and the implacable destiny of the human being, death.
The unique character of the book is given by the lens through which the aforementioned topics are observed. We’re observing them through the eyes of a 10-year-old boy with leukaemia who spends his last days in a hospital, knowing there is no hope for him.
Encouraged by an elderly nurse, the Pink Lady, to tell his troubles to God, Oscar writes 13 letters to Him which become, for Schmitt, a pretext for deep, lucid observations, but also for honest inquiries about life, destiny, and meaning.
An “Oracle” without her will, the Pink Lady is more than a nice old lady who is determined to answer Oscar’s questions; she is a voice that, speaking, seeks to understand for herself (and for the reader). In the end, the Pink Lady concludes that the most interesting questions remain unanswered and only uninteresting questions have definitive resolutions.
Throughout the 100 pages, Oscar imagines that every day will have a duration of 10 years for him, so he ends up “living,” in just a few days, 110 years and experiencing in his imagination the major moments of life: first love, family life, everyday worries, old age, and the approach of death. The last chapter, an epistle signed by the Pink Lady, suggests that, in the face of death, people can find in God an inexhaustible supply of love.
The sign that Oscar put at his bedside in his last days reflects, ultimately, a hope for something beyond death: “Only God is allowed to wake me.” Schmitt’s novel, the third in the Cycle of the Invisible (Cycle de l’invisible), was adapted for the theatre stage all over the world, and in 2009 it was the basis of the script for the film with the same name.
However, the book retains, in its simplicity and magic of words—just like Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince—depths that recommend it for reading before any other audio-visual version of little Oscar’s story.
Having a direct style and a predisposition for humour, Florin Bică has been around books for as long as he can remember. He reads on diverse topics so he doesn’t fall into the “I-know-it-all” trap. He is a children’s book author, writing both fiction and non-fiction for this exacting audience.