Momo is the main character of a children's book of the same title written by Michael Ende
, and it is his second most popular book next to The Neverending Story
Momo is a young orphan girl who one day appears in a small town, claiming to be 100 or 102 years old, but looking no older than twelve. She is able to listen so attentively to people that they suddenly find themselves able to understand and solve their own problems. Soon, the girl has many friends who care for her, give her food and other things she needs.
But then, the Grey Men appear and persuade people that the most important thing in life is to save time. However, the more time people save, the less it seems they actually have left! Yet they can't even remember ever having spoken to a Grey Man (or having agreed to hand over their free time to them) because they are so boring. People end up leading hectic and joyless lives without knowing why they chose to do so. As a side effect, Momo's friends don't have any more time for her. Momo's listening skills enable her to remember the Grey Men and find out that they steal the saved time to make cigars from hour flowers which they need to survive.
Suddenly Momo has become a threat to the Grey Men's plans and they try to kill her, but she is saved just in time by a tortoise who leads Momo to Master Hora, the administrator of time itself. He tells Momo that the Grey Men are disrupting the fabric of time and sends her off to stop them, armed with nothing more than a few hour flowers...
The main plot is obviously an all too real metaphor about how the hunt for efficiency makes people miserable, but the entire book is written very skillfully, using strong, timeless images and characters, well worth reading for adults as well as children.
The book was translated into English, but has been out of print for a while and is therefore hard to find. Spanish and, of course, German printings are still easily available. There is also a well-made (in Germany) movie based on the book, low-budget for Hollywood standards, but sporting a number of Germany's best actors and focussed on capturing the essence of the book rather than throwing together all the most attention-getting scenes from the book, implemented with flashy special effects.
The English version of the movie may be easier to find than the translated book.