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March 29, 2013

MOMO or The Men in Gray

Michael Ende

MOMO, also called The Men in Gray, is a fantasy novel by Michael Ende, published in 1973. At first, one might be tempted to think that this is a children’s book. And to be fair, it is quite appropriate reading for children; say from 12 years on up… However, since the book addresses common problems that we see in modern day “adult” life, it is also quite appropriate for mature audiences.

In some ways, Ende’s prose reminds me of Ernest Hemingway’s style, this is to say, clean, simple and true. It was the simplicity in which an alluring story was presented, which hooked me from the start. The ease, with which he presents impressive and imaginative scenarios, is fascinating. Some of the stories, within the stories are ingenious and leave you wanting for more. But be not concerned because as you move through the book, the story will continue to amaze you. In my case, it made me feel as I was a child listening in to a thrilling bedtime adventure story.

Momo or The Man in GreyAlthough the protagonist of the story is MOMO, who is an innocent, rather strange, 10-year-old orphan, I would say that there is another unsung protagonist that permeates the whole story: And this is time, itself. There are the nasty “Men in Gray” who are doing their nasty deed of robbing people’s time, in the dark or shadows, unbeknownst to people at large. However, Ende’s puts forth the paradox that the time that we, in modern day societies, “save”, we actually lose. And this encourages us to work harder to save more time, wishfully thinking that somehow we will store it in some kind of time-bank, and to be able to draw from it, later on. But as you know, once you avoid doing something that you like for reasons of saving time, that instance is lost forever.

Perhaps we should take some “time-out” to relax and enjoy now, rather than delay it for some future date. Not a bad message, if you asked me. So next time you’re in this quandary, why not say: Oh what the heck, let’s just do it!

Lastly, this is truly an enjoyable and uplifting little novel, which reads quickly. I highly recommend it.

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