Eleven Minutes [Paulo Coelho]


Author: Paulo Coelho (2003)
Publisher: HarpersCollins
Edition: Paperback 2003
Category: Fiction
ISBN: 0-7322-7877-5

We all thought that we know everything about love (and sex) after having many relationships, either by adoring and expressing it more appreciatively or by denying it as a result of unpleasant experiences. Everybody has their own “journey” of finding their love and Coelho is telling it from Maria’s journey, a Brazilian girl who went to Europe to fulfil her childhood dreams, to fulfil her hunger of understanding love and sex, and to find her Prince Charming.

Coelho is right. Just like Maria, I also had and still have the same dream of meeting the man of my life who is intelligent, rich and handsome, of getting married in a wedding dress, having children and owning a comfy house.

Maria, instead of becoming a famous samba dancer as promised to her, turned to be a prostitute in the city of Geneva, Switzerland. That was her own decision for the sake of survival, adventures and out of her desperation of never finding what love and sex mean apart from pain and suffering. This is when her life journey became more intensive and had allowed her for conversations with the invisible friend and many self-questionings.

“…what have I got to lose if I decide to become a prostitute for a while? Honour. Dignity. Self-respect. Although, when I think about it, I’ve never had any of those things. I didn’t ask to be born, I’ve never found anyone to love me, I’ve always made the wrong decisions – now I’m letting life to decide for me” (p.49).

Two ‘special clients’ of Copacabana taught her about sex and love from two different perspectives. One taught her that the pain, suffering and pleasure by means of masochism sex is what she needed in order to understand love, because they all are nothing but extreme experiences. The other one taught her that pain and suffering are justification of the joy of love. He taught her to take pleasure on the beauty of the pain, the pain imposes by nature not by man (shu-gen-do). He came to love her because he knew that her body would never be his alone thus he had to conquer her soul.

Coelho told the story without making me being judgmental or focusing on prostitution. I rather see the story as a life journey that unfortunately has led someone to become something that she and her parents didn’t expect her to be, because of her curiosity and desperation. It is amazing to see how people ‘grow up’ out of constant dissatisfaction. I personally quite like the book. This is a realistic fairy tale, Coelho’s style. I may understand too well the essence of Maria’s journey and what she went through, (…..maybe).

Some readers may find the book to be a disappoinment especially if they compare it with the Alchemist and expect the same sensation. On the prologue Coelho mentioned that he had wanted to write something about sex but I think this isn’t really the topic for him, though he did try to collaborate it with his philosophical thinking.


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