Good read for grey winter days: Momo by Michael Ende

It is January, the winter in Berlin is dragging on, it is the time of the year when we feel like we haven’t seen the sun in months. Grey sky and rain, day by day. It might be these uncomfortable circumstances that make me want to turn to something consoling and uplifting and to read extracts from the children’s book Momo with my students.

As many other Germans of my generation I read this book as child, but I also loved to read it again as an adult, since it contains a lot of true and inspiring insights on society. Even though the novel was published in 1973, it seems to accurately describe today’s world. At first sight it is just a beautiful and touching story about a little girl and her friends, but when you look behind the facade it contains a deep criticism of the consumerist, superficial and fast moving society we live in.

I warmly recommend Momo by Michael Ende (who is also the author of the more famous „Die unendliche Geschichte – The Neverending Story“), as an inspiring read for grey winter days (or any other day). There is also a well made film version. Watch it with subtitles, ideally German subtitles 🙂

Below is a small synopsis, first in simple German, followed by the English translation:

A cup of tea and the novel Momo, perfect companions on a grey winter day.

Momo ist ein kleines Mädchen. Sie lebt allein in der Ruine eines Amphitheaters am Rande einer Großstadt. Sie hat keine Eltern, doch die Bewohner der Stadt kümmern sich um sie und sie hat viele Freunde. Die Kinder der Stadt kommen gern zum Amphitheater, um zu spielen. Momo hat ein großes Talent. Sie kann sehr gut zuhören. Viele Menschen kommen zu ihr und erzählen ihr ihre Probleme. Wenn Momo ihnen zuhört, werden Schüchterne plötzlich mutig, Unentschlossene entschlossen und die Menschen haben plötzlich Gedanken, von denen sie vorher nichts gewusst haben.

Eines Tages tauchen die grauen Herren in der Stadt auf. Diese Männer sind Zeitdiebe. Sie kommen im Auftrag einer Zeitsparkasse und wollen die Menschen dazu überreden, ihre Lebenszeit zu sparen. Die Menschen haben immer weniger Zeit und immer weniger Freude am Leben. Momo ist die Einzige, die den Menschen helfen kann, ihre Zeit von den grauen Herren zurückzuholen…

English translation:

Momo is a little girl. She lives by herself in the ruins of an old amphitheatre in the outskirts of a big city. She doesn’t have parents, but the inhabitants of the city take care of her and she has many friends. The children from the city love to come to the amphitheatre to play. Momo has a very special talent. She is a great listener. Many people come to her and tell her their problems. When Momo listens to them, shy people become brave and undetermined people become determined and people suddenly have thoughts that they didn’t know existed.

One day, the men in grey appear in the city. These men are time thiefs. They come on behalf of a time savings bank and want to convince people to make savings of their lifetime. The people have less and less time and less and less joy in life. Momo is the only one who can help the people to get back their time from the men in grey…

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