Momo (by Michael Ende)
Author: Michael Ende
Genre: Children’s Literature
Summary: Momo is a little girl who appears out of the blue in the city and settles in the old unused amphitheatre. Nobody knows where she came from, and she has no family, but that is not a problem since she instantly makes new friends due to her gift – she is an extraordinary listener. When you talk to Momo, and without her saying anything, you will have the wildest ideas, tell the most fantastical stories, and be able to finally put that feeling in your heart into words. Soon, anybody with a problem or lost in thought is advised “just go to Momo!” and children love playing in her amphitheatre because the greatest adventures happen there. However, this world of leisurely spent hours is in danger, because Grey Gentlemen are encroaching upon society. They convince adults and soon even children that their current way of life is wasting their precious time in life, that they have to save time and be more productive, and will be able to access the ‘saved time’ at the end of their normal lifespan. But in reality the Grey Gentlemen are existing on the time stolen from humans, and endeavor to steal as much time as possible, making Momo’s friends stressed, cranky, and busy, always too busy to talk to Momo. So Momo gathers all her courage and visits Master Hora, the keeper of all time, to help him defeat the Grey Gentlemen…
The Good: I have wanted to read this for ages – in fact, since I was a kid of Momo’s age – and have only gotten round to it now. Do I regret reading a kid’s book at the ripe age of 23? Not an instant. If anything, the book’s message makes even more sense to me now, a (somewhat) stressed grad student stuck between studying for exams, extracurriculars and keeping up with current events – I do sometimes have the feeling “man, I’m wasting my time, I should be more productive”, even if I am enjoying myself, and direly need this wake-up call from time to time to call into question what I really want to be spending my time on. Critics have pointed out the fact that it was written in 1973 and that, in the epilogue, the author states that it could be a story about the past or the future – and ended up resembling our stressed-out, consumerist future so strongly. Plus, the book is beautifully written (note: I read it in the German original, so I can’t speak to any translation) and Momo is the most lovable of characters.
The Rotten: I honestly can’t think of anything except maybe people will stare at you weird if they catch you reading a kid’s book on the subway? But you can judge them for reading 50 Shades of Grey or some other “adult” literature, so there. If you are really self-conscious about it, stick to the safety of your home and enjoy.
Best Enjoyed: Huddled beneath the blankets one sleepless night when you feel time is suspended, with a steaming mug of hot chocolate nearby.
Fate of the Book: Alas, I only borrowed it from my friend who wants to learn German with it, so I’ll have to give it back *tear*
“Life holds one great but quite commonplace mystery. Though shared by each of us and known to all, seldom rates a second thought. That mystery, which most of us take for granted and never think twice about, is time.
Calendars and clocks exist to measure time, but that signifies little because we all know that an hour can seem as eternity or pass in a flash, according to how we spend it.
Time is life itself, and life resides in the human heart.”