There is a phrase by Michael Ende that defines, without a doubt, the purpose he always sought in literary work: “If people forget that they have an inner world, then they forget their own values”. Thus, in unforgettable books such as Momo or the endless story, he conveyed to us the metaphor that without creativity and fantasy, people derive in the intellectual emptiness, in the most absolute Nothingness.
Today, after such overwhelming successes as the Harry Potter saga of J.K. Rowling, no one can say that juvenile literature is a minor genre. In fact, if someone has thought about it at some time, he is wrong. There we have antecedents like the works of Michael Ende, capable of marking whole generations, of being those referents that never go out of style and that continue to inspire us in different ways.
The specialists and scholars of the time did not hesitate to call Michael Ende “the last German romantic writer”. Thanks to him millions of people learned to see the world differently. Because his works were also based on a deep social criticism, and the express desire to invite the reader to wake up to new realities. Some more free, respectful and above all, marked by freedom of expression and creation.
For this, Ende connected the stage of modern life with small universes nourished by evocative mythological and poetic figures. However, there is something that makes it even more interesting. One can read his books at twelve and thirty-five and find new concepts, new ideas to reflect on.
Literature was for him a portal to magic. For us, his work is that perfect key with which to cross into other universes full of possibilities. Those in which Ende himself dreamed one day.
“Each book is a new adventure in which I abandon myself and from which I do not know where it will take me. When writing, I always enter a serious crisis in which, suddenly, I have to mobilize all my energies.”
Biography of Michael Ende
Michael Ende was born on November 12, 1929 in Germany, in the Bavarian town of Garmisch Partenkirschen. It is worth noting the figure of his father: Edgar Ende. He was a remarkable surrealist painter who marked a good part of his life. This unique dream world, contained in the canvases with which he grew up as a child, subsequently inspired many of his books.
His father was also a persecuted and sanctioned figure by the Nazis. His mother, Luise Bartholomä, was a physiotherapist, a very cultivated woman who also transmitted her passion for art, and above all, for writing. However, that idyllic and bohemian calm was fragmented with the arrival of World War II.
Ende was part of an anti-Nazi group called the “Bavarian Free Front”. Also, when the German army recruited him by force, he did not hesitate to refuse, and later, to flee with his family to a safer area of Munich with other artists. After the war, he completed his education in the Waldorf Schools founded by Rudolf Steiner. This educator would also leave a big imprint on him for emphasizing the more spiritual side of the human being.
Literary successes and exiles
The life of Michael Ende would change completely in 1960 with the publication of his book Jim Button and Lukas, the engine driver. He was so successful that he even wrote a sequel. Now, it should be noted that if there was something that he faced throughout his life, he went to criticism. They said of him that he encouraged escapism, irresponsibility and mental evasion. They accused him of not showing political commitment.
These voices acquired increasing strength and relevance; until finally, he decided to leave Germany and settle in the south of Rome. His country was not a friendly scenario, neither receptive nor even less comfortable to fuel his inspiration. Rome, on the other hand, was full of stimuli, new faces, traditions, exceptional corners for the mind of a writer.
Momo would be published in 1973 and later, The Never Ending Story (1979). Both would be taken to the movies, something that Michael Ende himself did not like very much. Thus, The neverending story, he defined it as excessive melodrama, too kitsch, luxurious and full of plastics.
In 1985, after the loss of his wife, Ende decided to return to Germany. Once in her country she meets a translator and contracts again, also starting a new stage at the literary level. Write and illustrates them, like Lirum Larum. In this time his figure is a social phenomenon, he attends conferences, he gives lectures and his works are on the shelves around the world.
“Michael Ende died at age 65 of stomach cancer in Stuttgard. To this day, it continues to occupy one of the most prominent positions in children’s and young people’s literature.”
The two most important works of Michael Ende
Michael Ende wrote five books and sixteen stories. It also has various essays, plays, poetry and other non-fiction creations. As we see, it is not a very extensive legacy, but it is relevant, especially in regard to those two books that gave it worldwide fame.
Momo and the gray men
For many, Momo is without doubt his best book. It is a work in which social criticism and philosophical character is appreciated more than ever. In it we have as protagonist an orphan girl, Momo. His virtues are to listen very well, to have many friends and to be a threat to some very singular figures, the gray men.
These entities are the representatives of the Time Bank, who convince people to save and invest their life time until, little by little, they are left without it when they become the property of the bank. The human being then loses aspects as important as their relationships, their ability to create, think, be happy …
Momo continues to be an obvious criticism of consumerism and the power of large companies.
The Never Ending Story and the Fantasy
In The Never Ending Story we have Bastian as protagonist. His life is not easy, he suffers bullying at school and always desperately seeks a way to escape, to flee from his reality. It is then when a book falls into his hands, a work that allows him to reach the world of Fantasy.
It is a scenario in decline, a country attacked by an entity that devours and ends with it: it is Nothing. Finally, Bastian ends up being that essential element for the resurgence of Fantasy thanks to a discovery: by recognizing his creative power, his capacity to believe in the impossible, that internal value where once again to drive dreams, imagination, magic of the creation.
On the other hand, it is interesting to know that Michael Ende was inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy to shape many of the characters in this novel. We can see for example the young Atreyu, always seeking to be that perfect ideal, that warrior in which hopes are deposited. Bastian, on the other hand, is that child who connects more with the world of Fantasy than with his own, the real one.
We see therefore a desire always continued to reach an ideal, to find a paradise as they are crossing circles, avoiding difficulties and obstacles to jump from hell or Nothing, to the perfection that is contained in the world of Empress for children, the one with the golden eyes.