Literature: Coelho’s Eleven Minutes

“…freedom only exists when love is present. The person who gives him or herself wholly, the person who feels freest, is the person who loves most wholeheartedly.” –Maria, in Paulo Coelho’s Eleven Minutes (2004)

In the last post, I admitted to boarding a plane for vacation without a single book. Unusual for me, as the thought of going anywhere without a book is akin to what my sister must feel without her Blackberry: naked. Even though I thought it would be good just to clear my mind and not have to think about anything for two weeks, I spotted a Paulo Coehlo collection on the hearth where I was staying and started reading Eleven Minutes, upon the recommendation of a friend. From the other Coelho books I’ve read (The Alchemist, Warrior of the Light, The Devil and Miss Prym…), I’ve come to expect simple stories that demonstrate spiritual truths. I can’t say that this one was much different—except instead of being a story about wisdom, or hope, or faith, Eleven Minutes is basically a story about sex, love, and desire. It’s racier than I’d imagined Coelho to be.

Eleven Minutes is the story of a young Brazilian woman named Maria who goes to Geneva for work. She is led to believe that she will be working in the entertainment business—perhaps in music or dance—but she ends up working as a prostitute. The book seems to move slowly for the first hundred or so pages, but when Maria meets a talented young painter, her ideas about sex and love are put to the test, and this is where the book starts to get really good. I found that Maria’s exploration of these things had me considering my own ideas, prejudices, and desires. Maybe this is why I like Coelho—he doesn’t simply entertain; his work moves readers beyond fiction and into the realm of their own lives.

Some gems from Maria’s diary (passages are woven throughout the story):

“In love, no one can harm anyone else; we are each of us responsible for our own feelings and cannot blame someone else for what we feel.”

“I am not a body with a soul, I’m a soul that has a visible part called the body.”

‘That is the true experience of freedom: having the most important thing in the world without owning it.”

“…if we are talking in terms of making progress in life, we must understand that ‘good enough’ is very different from ‘best.’”

One response to “Literature: Coelho’s Eleven Minutes

  1. He does have a beautiful yet simple way of getting to the heart and soul!

    Sorry so much time has passed between us. You have been in my thoughts. My time now is filled with kindergartners. They are my joy! So precious. Hope you’re well, my adventurer.

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