Book: Momo


One of those rare, unforgettable lost books, the kind you remember the rest of your life. On one level it is a book for young (12-15 year old) readers, but it may be an even better read for adults. It has been assigned reading in college courses. Written in 1974, by Michael Ende (author of "The Never Ending Story), it was last published in the U.S. in 1985. It's been out-of-print in the U.S. since the late 1980's.  Yet it is even more timely today, (over four decades since it was first published), than ever for American readers. The story is of an orphan girl named Momo who lives in an ancient, abandoned ampitheatre on the outskirts of an unnamed city and country. She has a special gift of being able to listen, really listen, in a way that draws people, especially other young people to her.   She finds that a secret elite of people, the "Men in Gray", have been getting away with a scheme so outrageous it's hard to believe. But they have been, because everyone, unwittingly,  lets them. They give the "Men in Gray" the very power to exist.  It's an adventurous tale, a timeless allegory and a timely story about . . .Time, among other things. It is a story that will not become dated or obsolete any time in the future. It's a book you can read aloud to children, who will get much of its message on their level, and you, the older and (possibly) wiser will appreciate it on a deeper and subtler level.  An unforgettable story. Middle school age readers will enjoy the story on different levels, too.  "Momo" deserves another chance to be read here in the U.S., so we are making it available. But you won't find it in any bookstore in the U.S. today, or any time soon, since there is no U.S. publisher of an English language edition. The English-lanuage publisher of the book (in Canada) cannot send copies to the U.S. for reasons we still can't figure out. (some kind of catch-22 deal: they can't sell to another company's potential market, even if there is no company publishing this book in this country...go figure. All we know is that we have to get them by a very circuitous, (but legal, route) from Penguin Books in England.
Here's what three reviewers wrote about "Momo" at the time of its U.S. publication:

•"Riveting stuff - a fantasy unlike anything I can remember reading." (Naomi Lewis)

• "...there is real ingenuity to its imaginative force...and the conception and shapes of its fantasy devices are charmingly fresh. Is it a children's book? Not here in America."   (Natalie Babbit, Washington Post Book World, 3/17/85)

•"Ende's story is a poignant, appealing tale.  We need more people [like Momo] who are able to give others the gift of time, and less who have no time to give..The book fits neatly into the crack between fantasy and mainstream allegory and satire. We can claim it for our own...but so can everyone else. And that may be one key to its success."  (Tom Easton,  Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, October 1985)

And here's what more recent reviewers have written about "Momo":

•" ...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 children AND adults. I can recommend this tome of wisdom as sincerely without doubts as I can recommend 'The Never-Ending Story.' " (; London, England 11/21/99)

• "...[Momo] starts off as quite a simple story, but as the pages go by, you realize you are reading something quite remarkable." (; 10/6/04)

• "Genius. The book is awestriking, deeply philosophical and it's more important for grown-ups to read than children ... Some parts of the book are very frightening and thi is because at the same time they're very much imaginary, they are also real at the same being something that you have encountered many times and know it, just like everyone else in the world. You have to read the book to see what I'm getting at there. No, it's not even a magic thing. By the way, the stuff involving time in this book is not about time-travel. It uses time in ways that I have never seen anybody do before. Suggestion: read it! Preferably aloud with others, because you need to share this book with your loved ones. No, it isn't corny, but you need it and it's really, really cool, so it's a hell of a lot better than anything on TV." (Orion Sandstorm, Utah)

•"I'm so glad I have my childhood copy, because this is one unforgettable story. It's unfortunate that it's not still in print [in the U.S.] A truly beautiful story with an honorable heroine and unforgettable characters. (Elizabeth Crabtree, Santa Cruz, CA)  

Because there is no U.S. publisher, we had to import the book and had to pay twice to have it shipped into the U.S. Read it and pass it on to your local town or school library, since they most likely don't have a copy.  This story will only grow in relevance over time, rather than diminish. In the Author's Postscript, Ende claims to have been told the story by a passenger, while on a long night journey by train. He writes: "Then my mysterious  acquaintance made a remark which I feel bound to put on record. 'I've described all these events' he said, 'as if they'd already happened. I might as well have described them as if they still lay in the future. To me, there's very little difference.' "