Momo (book review) Michael Ende

Marcel Dzama (Illustrations)


210422: i have read this at least three times, this is a new translation, though how different i do not know as i do not read german. it was first published in 1973, i read it in the 80s, i read it again on fortieth anniversary. as with many works of art it is prescient and maybe things are even worse now. i had not read [book:The Neverending Story|27712] but simply liked the surrealistic cover and suggestion of 'time thieves'. i have decided to write a long, time-intense review of this short book in recognition of philosophy it embodies...


and it is perhaps different to read now, after all the philosophy-time books on my bookshelf, to which i add this. this is not technically philosophy text. this makes no arguments, puts forward no particular ideology, offers metaphysics only as any book does. if you follow the fable of time, if you can allow it to penetrate, there is an ethics revealed, but this is unstated. the simple question, as children know first, is: who are you saving time for? for children are the most difficult for time thieves, they know that they have time, and the most dangerous is momo...


from a physics point-of-view i understand that 'time' is an illusion, that it is our human prejudice that thinks past present future. there is an apparent 'arrow of time' but no physics explains this in action, only the concept of increasing disorder or entropy, which describes it. when my girlfriend died my father, physical chemistry professor, sought to comfort me by the idea of 'block time', in which from 'outside' time we would see past present future as one unbroken unity, so she may be dead now, but she is always alive in the past...


about a year ago my father died and so i can try to comfort my mother with the same logic: she does not need it, she is a believer in the afterlife, in souls etc. so i try to comfort myself. but my physics may not be very strong, indeed the description of 'time' above is wanting, and at any rate science is not the first nor final explanation of the world for me. perhaps it is art, in this case literature, in this engaging narrative fable of one perceptive little girl against an army of nothing...


this book certainly proves the value of 'judging by the cover', that first time in 80s, with di chirico shadows long on plaza bordered by classical amphitheatre, arcade, columns, with little girl in flight in the middle, with grey men lurking in the shadows. i cannot know if the language is particularly good but the images translate well. i am ready for the surrealistic fantasy from the beginning...


'time saving' is actually 'time impoverishment', is the poisoning of that natural flow, and the author describes this in vignettes from the small time barber to the amateur guide who becomes celebrity to the street sweeper who loses his patient, zen-like tranquility...


perhaps had i already read 'neverending story' i would have been less surprised at how ende integrates philosophy with fable, for though momo the character is a child of indeterminate age, momo the book is appropriate to all ages. 'time' is a question we all experience, and far from illusion i believe there is nothing more 'real' than 'time'. the ways in which the author has visualised time- from hour blossoms, cigars of dead leaves of flowers, current of time, the pathetic villainy of the 'thieves'... and our, all of our, collaboration with the time savings bank- is beautifully rendered in accessible story rather than complex philosophy... this is not husserl, heidegger, sartre, bergson, deleuze (all of whom i love to read as well)...


and the answer to escaping this insidious plague of 'time saving'? which is actually more 'time impoverishment', is enacted and revealed simply by momo and why the grey men fear her so much and cannot help but tell her the truth: just listen. slow down. take time. listen...


earlier review, other edition, not first reading: 170828: just read an article about an international survey about what makes people happier: material things or immaterial time? if you have read this book you know the answer is 'time'. if you have not read this book, hurry up slow down and read it! there is only so much time...

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