Momo (novel)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Momo, also known as The Grey Gentlemen or The Men in Grey, is a fantasy novel by Michael Ende, published in 1973. It is about the concept of time and how it is used by humans in modern societies. The full title in German translates to Momo, or the strange story of the time-thieves and the child who brought the stolen time back to the people".

Plot summary

In the ruins of an amphitheatre just outside an unnamed Italian city lives Momo, a little girl of mysterious origin. She is remarkable in the neighbourhood because she has the extraordinary ability to listen — really listen. By simply being with people and listening to them, she can help them find answers to their problems, make up with each other, and think of fun games. The expression "go and see Momo!" has become synonymous with panacea and Momo has become the friend of everyone, especially honest street-cleaner Beppo and poetic tour guide Guido (also known as "GiGi Thompson").

This pleasant atmosphere is spoiled by the arrival of the Men in Grey. These strange individuals represent the Timesavings Bank and promote the idea of timesaving among the population, time which can be deposited to the Bank and returned to the client later with interest. They then make people forget all about them but not about the resolution to save as much time as possible "for later use". Gradually, the sinister influence of the Men in Grey affects the whole city: life becomes sterile, devoid of all things considered time-wasting, like art, imagination or even sleeping. Buildings and clothing are made exactly the same for everyone and the rhythms of life become hectic. In reality, the more time people save, the less they have. The time they save is actually lost to them; instead, it is consumed by the Men in Grey in the form of cigars, made from the dried petals of the hour-lilies that represent time. Without these cigars the Men in Grey cannot exist.

Momo, however, is a wrench in the plans of the Timesaving Bank thanks to her special personality. The Men in Grey try various plans to take care of her, but they all fail. When even her closest friends fall under the influence of the Men in Grey in one way or another, Momo's only hope to save the time of mankind is the personification of Time Professor Secundus Minutus Hora( the sharp minded would have noticed- Second Minute Hour) and Cassiopeia, a tortoise which can communicate through writing on her shell and can see thirty minutes into the future. Momo's adventure will take her from the depths of her heart, where her own time flows from in the form of lovely hour-lilies, to the lair of the Men in Grey themselves, where the time people believe they save is hoarded.

Major themes

Like his well-known work The Neverending Story, Michael Ende uses fantasy and symbolism to deal with real world matters such as the nature and importance of time, the power of stories, friendship, compassion and the value of the small but pleasant things that make life more worth living. For these reasons Momo is a popular work of Ende, right after The Neverending Story.

The main theme of Momo can be seen as a criticism of consumerism and stress. It describes the personal and social losses produced by unnecessary consumption, and the danger to be driven by a hidden interest group with enough power to induce people into this life style. Michael Ende has also claimed to have had the concept of aging money in mind when writing Momo.

Childhood is also an important subject in many of Ende's books. In Momo it is used to offer contrast with the adult society. As children have "all the time in the world", they are a difficult target for the Men in Grey: children can't be convinced that their games are time-wasting. The author uses a mockery of Barbie doll and other expensive toys as symbols to show how anyone can be persuaded, even indirectly, into consumerism.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Momo (novel)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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