momo - spanish edition - penguin random house - feature

On Our Bookshelves – Momo

***

NOVEL: Momo

AUTHOR: Michael Ende

YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 1973

REVIEW:

***

Back in 2018, I asked the musician Steve Sandberg for some book recommendations, and he mentioned a book for children called Momo, which I wasn’t familiar with.  (He also recommended Lizard Musicwhich is excellent–I’d just about forgotten about its existence, and was happy to have the reminder.)  So, I’ve meant to check out Momo for the last two years and now that we’re all stuck home, I finally got around to it.

***

I cannot believe, now that I have read it, that this novel isn’t more widely-known in the English-speaking world.  (It’s very popular in Ende’s native Germany.) It’s simply terrific and utterly charming.  It’s a bit like The Phantom Tollbooth and it’s a bit like The Little PrinceGuila Pines compared it to Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time in The Atlantic recently.  But it’s also wholly original.

***

You see, the novel concerns Momo, a young girl of mysterious origins, who was a gifted listener, a true and loyal friend, and a peacemaker.  The city in which she lived (unnamed, but similar to Rome, which is where Michael Ende wrote most of the book) was invaded by the sinister Men in Grey, who promoted the idea of “timesaving,” but instead, were parasitically stealing the peoples’ time.  As they took over, the culture and the people changed in unfortunate ways–a mania for efficiency and speed took hold, design and joy become superfluous and suspect, and life became “poorer, bleaker and more monotonous.”  Only Momo, with her particular gifts, really understood the truth of the matter: “time is life itself, and life resides in the human heart.  And the more people saved, the less they had.”

With the help of Professor Hora and a tortoise, Cassiopeia, that could see a half hour into the future, Momo was eventually able defeat the Men in Grey to restore the stolen time.  The residents of the city (except for Momo’s friends) didn’t realize what had happened, but life immediately improved:

“Children played in the middle of the street, getting in the way of cars whose drivers not only watched and waited, smiling broadly, but sometimes got out and joined in their games.  People stood around chatting with the friendliness of those who take a genuine interest in their neighbors’ welfare.  Other people, on their way to work, had time to stop and admire the flowers in a window-box or feed the birds.  Doctors, too, had time to devote themselves properly to their patients, and workers of all kinds did their jobs with pride and loving care, now that they were no longer expected to turn out as much work as possible in the shortest possible time.”

***

Ende was making a point, of course, about stress, consumerism, over-consumption, technology, and how to live a fulfilling life.  It’s probably a good book to read at any time, but it is a perfect book to read during quarantine. It seems right now that Mother Nature herself is telling us to slow down, and pointing out the myriad flaws in our society, government, health care services, values, and ideas of what workers are and aren’t “essential.”  Read this book to yourself, and to your children, and let’s hope that they have some of Momo’s incredible talent for listening, because Ende’s message is one that we all need to hear if we are going to ever truly vanquish those Men in Grey.

***

RATING (one to five whistles, with five being the best): 4 1/2 Whistles

***

HOW TO PURCHASE: This book (quite unfortunately!) seems to be out of print in English, but can be found used on Amazon, Ebay, Alibris, and other such websites.

***

Laura LaVelle is an attorney and writer who lives in Connecticut, in a not quite 100-year-old house, along with her husband, two daughters, and a cockatiel.

Laura can be contacted at laura@newswhistle.com

***

Lead-In Image (Book Cover, Spanish Edition) Courtesy of Penguin Random House

michael ende - momo - book cover - spanish edition - penguin random house

***

ALSO ON OUR BOOKSHELVES:

A Countess Below Stairs, Eva Ibbotson

A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles

A Man Called Ove, Fredrik Backman

A Patchwork Planet, Anne Tyler

A Room With a View, E.M. Forster

A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley

A Wandering Eye: Travels with My Phone, Miguel Flores-Vianna

After the Fall, Dan Santat

An English Murder, Cyril Hare

An Infamous Army, Georgette Heyer

Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Anne Of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery

Arthur & George, Julian Barnes

Ayesha at Last, Uzma Jalaluddin

Before the Fall, Noah Hawley

Bleak House, Charles Dickens

Blue Highways, William Least Heat-Moon

Bonjour Tristesse, Francoise Sagan

Books for Living, Will Schwalbe

Bunker Hill, Nathan Philbrick

Burmese Days, George Orwell

Cannery Row, John Steinbeck

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, Roz Chast

Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White

Cheaper by the Dozen, Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr. & Ernestine Gilbreth Carey

Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell

Cloudstreet, Tim Winton

Cockpit Confidential, Patrick Smith

Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons

Death in Profile, Guy Fraser-Sampson

Decorating a Room of One’s Own, Susan Harlan

Dept. of Speculation, Jenny Offill

Diary of a Provincial Lady, E.M. Delafield

Doctor Jazz, Hayden Carruth

Ed Emberly’s Drawing Book of Animals, Ed Emberly

Endangered Pleasures, Barbara Holland

Envious Casca, Georgette Heyer

Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury

Fever Dream, Samanta Schweblin

Foreign Affairs, Alison Lurie

Frederica, Georgette Heyer

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E.L. Konigsburg

Gaudy Night, Dorothy L. Sayers

Gift from the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee

Good Poems, Garrison Keillor

Gowanus Waters, Steven Hirsch

Grey Mask, Patricia Wentworth

H is for Haiku, Sydell Rosenberg

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, & Jack Thorne

Heads in Beds, Jacob Tomsky

Hemingway Didn’t Say That, Garson O’Toole

Here is New York, E.B. White

Hide My Eyes, Margery Allingham

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen, Laurie Colwin

Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou

I Will Always Write Back, Caitlin Alifirenka & Martin Ganda with Liz Welch

If on a winter’s night a traveler, Italo Calvino

Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor, Stephanie Barron

Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke

Lexicon, Max Barry

Lizard Music, Daniel Pinkwater

Longbourn, Jo Baker

Madeleine’s Ghost, Robert Girardi

Magpie Murders, Anthony Horowitz

Malice Aforethought, Frances Iles

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Helen Simonson

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town, Jon Krakauer

Mother Night, Kurt Vonnegut

My Life in France, Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme

Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro

New York New York, Richard Berenholtz

Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell

Notorious RBG, Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik

On Tyranny, Timothy Snyder

One Summer: America 1927, Bill Bryson

Out of the Blackout, Robert Bernard

Parnassus on Wheels & The Haunted Bookshop, Christopher Morley

Plotted: A Literary Atlas, Andrew DeGraff

Possession, A.S. Byatt

Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle…and Other Modern Verse, Stephen Dunning, Edward Lueders, and Hugh Smith

Ringworld, Larry Niven

Rose Madder, Stephen King

Sanditon, Jane Austen and Another Lady

Selected Poems of Langston Hughes

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, Carlo Rivelli

Sing and Shine On!, Nick Page

Sorcery and Cecelia: Or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot, Patricia Wrede & Caroline Stevermer

Snow, Orhan Pamuk

Still the Promised Land, Natwar Gandhi

Straying from the Flock: Travels in New Zealand, Alexander Elder

Strength in What Remains: Tracy Kidder

Super Sad True Love Story, Gary Shteyngart

Tales of the Unexpected, Roald Dahl

The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Ed., Lewis Carroll & Martin Gardner (with original illustrations by John Tenniel)

The Book of Forgotten Authors, Christopher Fowler

The Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith

The Daily Jane Austen: A Year of Quotes, Devoney Looser

The Dancer of Izu, Kawabata Yasunari

The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt

The Great Passage, Shion Miura

The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson

The House with a Clock in Its Walls, John Bellairs

The Ice House, Minette Walters

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot

The Longbourn Letters, Rose Servitova

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., Adelle Waldman

The Making of Jane Austen, Devoney Looser

The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat, Oliver Sacks

The Martian, Andy Weir

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Kate DiCamillo

The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories, P.D. James

The Missing Piece, Shel Silverstein

The Modern Kids, Jona Frank

The Monogram Murders, Sophie Hannah

The Mother & Child Project, Hope Through Healing Hands (ed.)

The Piano Shop on the Left Bank, Thad Carhart

The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark

The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion

The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss, Theodor Geisel (illustrator), Maurice Sendak (introduction)

The Snowy Day, Ezra Jack Keats

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, Gabrielle Zevin

The Swans of Fifth Avenue, Melanie Benjamin

The Tale of Despereaux, Kate DiCamillo

The Tender Bar, J.R. Moehringer

The Three Questions, Jon J Muth

The Translator, Nina Schuyler

The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce

The Unrest-Cure and Other Stories, Saki

The War on Normal People, Andrew Yang

The Weird World of Wes Beattie, John Norman Harris

The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin

The Woman in Black, Susan Hill

The Women in Black, Madeleine St John

They Call Me Naughty Lola, David Rose

Thing Explainer, Randall Munroe

Touch Not the Cat, Mary Stewart

Ways of Seeing, John Berger

We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson

What If?, Randall Munroe

When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi

Worth a Thousand Words, Brigit Young

You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life, Eleanor Roosevelt

Up At the Villa, W. Somerset Maugham

84, Charing Cross Road, Helene Hanff