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4.7 out of 5 stars
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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 7 April 2014
This seems on surface to be a child's fable. It works as a child's fable but communicates profound wisdom as to the nature of time, of a receptivity of being, of identifying and transcending that which wastes time. For time can waste as well as be wasted.
The scientific era is largely anti mythic - indeed uses the term myth as if it meant false! - but the story can hold and communicate information of far subtler aspect than linear conceptual definitions, and Michael Ende' willingness to let story serve a reintegration of consciousness extends and invitation to escape from the trap of a disconnected surface mentality rather than to dislocate in escapism.
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VINE VOICEon 28 September 2010
This is a lovely fable. Momo is a vagrant girl who settles in a ruined amphitheatre on the edge of a city. There her almost supernatural skill as a good-natured listener and hedge-therapist endears her to the locals, children and adults both. But then the men in grey move into the city, slyly persuading people to save time at all costs, time which the grey men themselves use to sustain their soulless lives. As the grown-ups rush around, their lives and those of their children become increasingly stressful and unhappy. Eventually it falls to Momo alone to confront the men in grey, though she is aided by Professor Hora, the keeper of time, and his prophetic tortoise Cassiopeia.

Warm and gripping throughout, the book has occasional passages of surpassing beauty, such as the imaginary seafaring adventure the children enjoy early on, and Momo's visit to the place where time comes from. Momo has to cope with the disappearance of all her friends and find a way past her loneliness to save them. The great climax glues one to the page: walking home with my nose buried in the book I went straight past my own house! - an outcome that would have pleased Momo immensely.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 28 March 2013
This isn't the kind of 'popular' children's book that makes a big splash. I never heard of this as a child though I loved the adaptation of his other book The NeverEnding Story, that too was a book I first read as an adult.
Momo is wonderful. Unfortunately I can imagine many children today wouldn't have the patience with this sort of book, one that starts off meandering and setting the scene before the plot really starts.
It's the kind of book though they you think 'classic' about before you've finished the first couple of chapters. Ende's style of writing is straightforward and pulls you in. I loved the scene with the barber best when the Gray Man explains how he has wasted too much time and must save it. Very clever. The book is a little moralistic (stop rushing about, enjoy life more) but wrapped up in a lovely plot with great elements (Cassiopeia the tortoise was one of the best).
Imaginative and beautifully written, a lovely children's story about time and friendship.
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on 21 November 1999
Personally, I always tend to be reluctant to admit as to which of the two books is best - both are fantastic. MOMO shows in a very good way what the world has come to - how TIME itself is (mis-)used by adults and the price it comes with.
Truly, a great book for both children *AND* adults, I can recommend this tome of wisdom as sincerely without doubts as I can recommend "The Neverending Story".
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on 27 June 2000
Momo is the only person in the world that can stand the influence of the grey men. Momo isa child with a special gift, and if you think there isn't anything special about knowing how to LISTEN, you are mightily wrong. This is a teriffic truth telling book about life in the modern world, and even if Ende uses magic to explain this, it doesn't mean there isn't truth in it. An enchanting read for children and adults alike.
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on 9 April 2001
The only question surrounding this book is whether or not it is as good as the Neverending Story, Michael Ende's second great fictional 'childrens' novel. As with the latter, Momo is simply astounding, encapsulating the same kind of personal, moving profundity within a work of delightful simplicity (in addition to the first of Ende's 'has to be read several times, it's that stunning' final chapters). Indeed, as to which is the better, only personal choice can decide: both are major modern - if little-known - philosophical works. I myself favour the Neverending Story, primarily because - especially with the hardback version - you really are reading the book being read by the boy in the book; it is a device which moves the object you are holding, as well as the story you are reading, into the realm of the fantastic. Momo, save the charming twist with Cassiopeia's shell in the last paragraph, is a more traditionally-formulated story - though of course that is not without its own implications, as anyone who empathises with Ende's unique philosophy would be keen to stress. Its great strength stems from its more explicit comment on the nature of 'modern' humanity: the men in grey are particularly relevant and unmistakable (as is the whole explanation of people's lack of time, a perfectly-formed allegory), next to which The Nothing can appear a rather vague concept.
Another translation of "Momo" also exists, under the title of "The Men in Grey". It would be interesting to compare the two; whilst this edition by J. Maxwell Brownjohn is near-perfect when the story's pace increases, the first few chapters were a bit too literally interpreted from the German, sometimes appearing odd and out-of-place. Emphasis on the word 'bit': this is the only tiny criticism one could hope to make of such a brilliant work, which, as with the greatest of literature, effortlessly captures important and profound observations in a compelling, seemingly-innocent and simplistic medium. I cannot recommend this book strongly enough.
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on 17 February 2010
Wonderfully imaginative,simple and profound. A savage indictment of "modern assiduousness" and a voice in the dark for the endless and timeless possibilities of the imagination! Please read it!-I am looking forward to reading The Neverending Story now.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 7 December 2013
The German author, Michael Ende, 1929-1995, wrote fantasy and children's literature and is best known for his epic fantasy `The Neverending Story'. He wrote `Momo' in 1973 with this translation by J. Maxwell Brownjohn being published in 1984. The author's father, Edgar Ende, was a Surrealist painter and the idea of rebelling against conformity and the accepted norms of society underpins this novel.

Momo, a young girl who is running away from orphanage, arrives at the outskirts of an unnamed city and decides to live in a small room under a ruined Roman amphitheatre. She wears old clothes, has raggedy, unkempt hair, refuses to wear shoes and is a run-away from an orphanage. Her ability to listen to others results in an old roadsweeper, Beppo, and a group of children, led by Guido, a born storyteller, coming together to talk and play together. Momo is also very good at resolving problems and arguments between the children. These friends and their parents help improve her living conditions and bring her food every day.

Into this world come the grey men from the Timesaving Bank who convince the citizens to save time by doing everything more quickly and not `wasting' time by talking to one another, `time wasted is time lost'. Their arguments are very convincing and people now manage their personal and professional lives more efficiently but they `never seemed to notice that, by saving time, they were losing something else. No one cared to admit that life was becoming poorer, bleaker and more monotonous. But time is life itself, and life resides in the human heart. And the more people saved, the less they had'.

This has a knock-on effect on the children who, little by little, stop coming to Momo. The city itself changes, `old buildings were pulled down and replaced with modern ones devoid of all the things that were now thought superfluous'. Peoples' lives became `ran dead straight as far as the eye could see. Everything in them was carefully planned and programmed, down to the last move and the last moment of time'.

When she realizes why her friends no longer visit her Momo knows that it is up to her to save everyone from the grey men. However, to do this she will need help. This arrives in the form of Professor Secundis Minutius Hora, a magician who is responsible for time itself and his turtle, Cassiopeia, who communicates through words that light up on her shell and who can see exactly 30 minutes into the future.

Momo is a well-rounded character but most of the others are little more than ciphers and the point about the grey men is that they all look and sound alike, and are referred to by their Bank codes, such as Agent No. XYQ/ 384/b, that offer little scope for individuality amongst the `baddies'. `A grey suited man got out [of the car] and walked in. He deposited his grey briefcase on the ledge in front of the mirror, hung his grey bowler on the hat-rack, sat down in the barber's chair, produced a grey notebook from his breast pocket and started leafing through it, puffing meanwhile at a small grey cigar'.

Using a riddle, Professor Hora shows Momo that `the present only exists because the future turns into the past'. She thinks she has only been with the magician for a day but it turns out to have been a year and a day. In the meanwhile, Beppo goes to the police to seek their help in finding Momo, but the policeman he talks to is not sympathetic, `I see', he said at last. `So you're telling me that an unlikely-sounding girl, whose existence remains to be proved, may have been kidnapped and carried off, you can't say where to, by ghosts of some kind. Is that what you expect us to investigate?'

In the course of the year, Beppo has been put in a mental hospital because he continued to search for Momo, Guido has given up looking for her and become a film and TV celebrity, Girolamo (the name he used in his make-believe adventures with Momo and the other children), and her old friends are too busy to meet up with her again and now live in child depots. One says `It was much nicer playing with you. We used to enjoy thinking up games for ourselves, but our supervisors say they didn't teach us anything useful'. Can Momo defeat the grey men and rescue them all? There is no great build up of tension as the story reaches its conclusion.

Underneath the delicate prose, adults will relate to the everyday distractions in their lives, and remember that, as children, they found adventure and satisfaction from within themselves. Parents and their families still need to search for, and protect, `quality time' together.

The story is rather whimsical. Forty years ago it might have appealed to children and some adults but it is difficult to see it having the same impact now. Would the young be ready to read a quarter of the book before anything very exciting happens? I think that, sadly, time might have left this book behind.
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on 11 December 2013
This book is as relevant today ( if not more so) as it was when it was written. As a children's story it works as a dark tale with a happy ending and a strong central character. As a critique of consumerism and capitalism it works beautifully too. It also includes one of the best descriptions of profound mystical experience outside of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn in Wind of the Willows I have ever read and shows great prescience in critiquing the dangers of celebrity. Wonderfully written - as a translation much credit must go to the translator but the author himself is surely a genius.
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on 10 April 2000
I had to read this book for my class in college, I thought it was only a fairy tale. Michael Ende was able to bring such important issues in our lives, through the lines of a book that applies to everyone. People are speeding and speeding their time only to realize how much are they loosing. I am only in college but this book had opened a lot of door to the world for me. It is a real thriller of present life, because everyone can see themselves in this true Master Creation of Michael Ende.
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