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Q: Name the book about a girl who saved time from the grey men who smoke time away ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: Name the book about a girl who saved time from the grey men who smoke time away
Category: Arts and Entertainment > Books and Literature
Asked by: zebek-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 09 Oct 2004 23:46 PDT
Expires: 08 Nov 2004 22:46 PST
Question ID: 412699
I'm trying to find out the name and author for this book that I read
approximately sixteen years ago.  I believe it's by an European
author, and I'm not even sure if there's an English translation of it
since I originally read it in a Chinese translation.  I'll try to give
as much detail as possible about the book so that hopefully somebody
will be able to figure this one out.

The book is about a young homeless orphaned girl who lives by herself
in a modern city near the ruins of an ancient Roman amphitheater.  Her
best friend is a young boy who gives guided tours of the ruins to
tourists, telling them outrageous stories about the ruins (that the
theatre is really the stand for a 1-to-1 scaled model of the globe,
for example).  Her life is care free until one day, men who are
dressed entirely in grey suits and carrying grey briefcases came to
the city (I think they also had grey faces and wore grey hats).  These
men represent themselves as agents of a "time bank" and urge everyone
to "save time."  "Look at how much time you are wasting by sleeping,
playing, talking with friends, making dinner for the family,
vacationing, reading books, and just goofing around," they explain to
their listeners, "almost your entire lives are being frittered away in
these unproductive pursuits.  You must save time with us, and deposit
your time in our bank."  When you are around these grey men, you feel
cold and life is bleached of meaning.  And they are constantly smoking
these grey cigarettes.  (This detail makes me think it was by an
European author.)  This terrifies the young girl to no end.  At this
point my memory of the plot becomes hazy, but somehow the grey men
succeed in their mission in convincing everyone to "save time" and
become more efficient.  The girl finds her city transformed into an
industrial metropolis where everyone eats standing up at fast food
restaurants (to save time on cooking and eating), goes home to
identically-shaped apartments (to save time by not wasting effort on
decorations and such), is always too busy to speak with friends or
relax because "time's a-wastin."  The girl is determined to stop this.
 She finds out that the grey men are, in fact, time thieves.  Time, it
turns out, actually are physically embodied in these beautiful
flowers, one for each hour, and every flower unique.  Far from "saving
time," the duped adults are in fact giving their "saved" hours to
these time thieves.  These thieves freeze the flowers, dry them out,
and then roll them into grey cigarettes.  They are men without time of
their own, and so by smoking these cigarettes and turning the time
they stole from other men into ash, that's the only way for them to
survive.  The girl breaks into their lair, and unfreezes the time
flowers, killing the grey time thieves.  When she comes back to the
city, everything is back to the way it was before: everyone has the
time to play, chat with friends, lull about on a summer day, and just
enjoy life.

Hopefully I'm giving enough details here for someone to figure this one out...
Subject: Re: Name the book about a girl who saved time from the grey men who smoke time a
Answered By: leli-ga on 10 Oct 2004 01:04 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello zebek

This must be "Momo", written by the German author Michael Ende, and
first published in 1973.

" . . .  Momo lives in a ruined amphitheater on the outskirts of a
city that is vaguely modern and European.
She attracts many friends, but two people are most special to her:
Guido Guide and Beppo Roadsweeper.
Guido and Beppo are friends in spite of their differences, and this
odd trio enjoys a happy existence until the men in gray appear.

These men wear gray suits, carry gray briefcases, and smoke gray
cigars. They operate discreetly, and they pose as financial advisors,
except their currency is time, not money. They impress and frighten
the townspeople with calculations of time wasted, and "timesaving"
becomes the latest creed. One day, a man in gray visits Momo, but her
ability to listen draws out the truth from beneath the subterfuge.
Once she knows their real mission, the men in gray seek to destroy

" One of the most remarkable novels of the late twentieth century is
Momo, by the German writer Michael Ende. Although apparently written
only for children, it contains profound insights into our modern
attitude toward time.


 . . . she must find the grey men's secret hoard of frozen time-lilies
and release every stolen minute."

"Momo is very intelligent and is not easily fooled by the two men who
come to town telling people to save time and deposit it in the bank.
With the help of her friend, Professor Hora, and a turtle, she is
determined to find out what they are doing with time."

If you want to buy a copy of "Momo", you will find that English
editions are out of print in the US, but available in the UK, for
example at

It's not difficult to buy a used copy in the US, with prices
reflecting the condition of the book:

Momo $10

Momo $50

It has also been published in a translation called "The Grey Gentlemen".

If I can offer any further help with this, please let me know by
asking for "clarification".

I hope you enjoy rediscovering "Momo".

Best Wishes - Leli

search terms used:
"grey OR gray men"
zebek-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Many thanks!  I have been looking for this for years without luck.

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