Momo, by Michael Ende

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Ed. Penguin, 1984. Size 20 x 13,5 cm. Translated from german by J. Maxwell Brownjohn. State: Used, excellent. 202 pages

Michael Ende was born in 1929, the son of Edgar Ende, one of Germany’s first Surrealist painters. He started out in life thinking he was going to be an actor, found himself writing for cabaret, and went on to review books for German radio while working on his first story, published in English as Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver. A mixture of fantasy and realism, it features such marvels as a steam engine that sails and a camel on skates, and has sold over a million copies.

Momo is a modern fairy story and was first published in 1973. Wide-eyed, barefoot and dressed in rags, Momo cannot tell any of the townsfolk where she has come from. But everyone loves her because she really knows how to listen and she helps them to resolve their problems. The the grey time-thieves arrive, and first adults, then children, unwittingly forget the importance of talking and listening as they are persuaded to concentrate on work and money. Only Momo can resist the grey men, and to do so she must travel to the very edge of time, where Professor secundus Minutius Hora and his prescient tortoise Cassiopeia will help her.

By Michael Ende

Many of my readers may have questions they’d like to ask. If so, I’m afraid I can`t help them. The fact is, I wrote this story down from memory, just as it was told me. I never met Momo or any of her friends, nor do I know what became of them or how they are today. As for the city where they lived. I can only guess which one it was.

The most I can tell you is this:

One night in a train, while I was on a long journey (as I still am), I found myself sitting opposite a remarkable fellow passanger -remarkable in that I found it quite impossible to tell his age. At first I put him down as an old man, but I soon saw that I must have been mistaken, because he suddenly seemed very young- though that impression, too, soon proved to be false.

At any rate, it was he who told me the story during our long night’s journey together.

Neither of us spoke for some moments after he had finished. 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 just as well have described them as if they still lay in the future. To me, there’s very little difference».

He must have left the train and the next station, because I noticed after a while that I was alone.

I’ve never bumped into him again, unfortunately. If by any chance I do, though, I shall have plenty of questions to ask him myself.