Oscar, the narrator of this fresh fictional gem, is ten years old. Because his form of leukemia has not responded to treatment, he has been living in a French hospital for a very long time. His parents, who bring him gifts and surely love him, are uncomfortable during their infrequent visits. Dr. Dusseldorf and the nurses are kind, but indirect and distant in their communications with him. Because no one talks to him about his illness or what is likely to happen, he feels isolated, alone, and miserable.

When Mamie-Rose, a very elderly hospital "pink lady" (hospital volunteer) with an exotic past, enters Oscar's life, she brings honesty, warmth, and comfort to the lost child known as Bald Egg. Guided by this incredible person--a blunt-spoken, irreverent woman who touches him, kisses him, and tells him wondrous stories of her wrestling feats--the boy grows stronger. Who wouldn't under the influence of the Strangler of Languedoc?

Of course Oscar is going to die. In addition to her generous companionship and her introductions of him to other children in the hospital, Mamie-Rose suggests letters to God as a way of feeling less lonely. "So God, on the occasion of this first letter I've shown you a little of what my life in the hospital is like here, where they now see me as an obstacle to medicine, and I'd like to ask you for clarification on one point: Am I going to get better? Just answer yes or no. It's not very complicated. Yes or no. All you have to do is cross out the wrong answer. More tomorrow, kisses. P.S. I don't have your address: what do I do" (65).

With Mamie-Rose treating him like a real kid, "move your but . . . we're not ambling along like snails" and Oscar scripting very candid letters to God, the first-person story about loneliness, love, and compassion is presented with spirited imagination. Oscar's story is quite extraordinary--and unforgettable.


The child's voice created for Oscar by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt is reminiscent of the childhood character, Scout, in To Kill a Mockingbird. Both give power and freshness to events in the spheres they inhabit. The following assessment by Oscar of his physician provides a chilling illustration:

"When Dr. Dusseldorf examines me in the morning, his heart isn't in it any longer. I'm a disappointment to him. He looks at me and says nothing, as if I'd done something wrong. But I really did do my best when I had the operation; I was good, I let them put me to sleep, when it hurt I didn't cry out, and I took all my medicine. Some days I really feel like yelling at him, telling him, this Dr. Dusseldorf and his black eyebrows, that perhaps it's his own fault that the operation failed. But he looks so unhappy that the insults get stuck in my throat . . . I know I've become a bad patient, one of those who keep others from thinking medicine is always fantastic" (58-59).


Originally published as Monsieur Ibrahim et les Fleurs du Coran (2001) and Oscar et la Dame Rose (2002) Editions Albin Michel S.A.

Primary Source

Monsieur Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran and Oscar and the Lady in Pink


Other Press LLC

Place Published

New York



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