Monday, July 17, 2006


ELEVEN MINUTES (by Paolo Coelho)


In a chic restaurant in Geneva, the walls of which are adorned by paintings of Joan Miró and while seated on the very table film director Federico Fellini had dined, Maria stopped being a child and started becoming a woman – more aware of the ways of the world and more willing to face her fears.

In what may be Paolo Coelho’s first book on sex and about prostitution in particular – inspired by Irving Wallace’s 1970’s book Seven Minutes – lead character Maria embarks on a journey from the desolation of Brazil to the world stage that is Geneva, Switzerland with three things in mind: adventure, money, and finding a husband. Bored by routine in a small town in Brazil, Maria is offered a job in Geneva by a French impressario who, as it turned out, comes to Brazil often to recruit pretty women to work for his Cabaret Cologny in Geneva.

Upon her arrival, she discovered that she was to get only a tenth of the salary promised her, and she was bound to work for the cabaret for a year. Stucked, lost, without a future in sight, Maria went on to spend her one year watching television, thinking of Brazil, confiding in a Filipina, and falling in love with an Arab man.

Unfortunately, Love – the word that either brings the world to its knees, or exalts it – is currently not in Maria’s vocabulary. Knowing that she can pleasure herself without a man (she learned masturbation as a kid), she only lived to experience pleasure and adventure, not to love. But when she met a man on the pilgrimage route called the Santiago Road, she discovered the power that true love can bring.

Eleven Minutes opens us to a world many of us may never know or personally experience but despite this, Coelho is not judgmental. Rather, he provides the female character a chance to redeem herself.Once again, master storyteller Paolo Coelho spins a web of unparalleled literary gem only Brazilians could possibly create.

Fresh from the success of Cry of the Valkryies and By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept, Coelho – known in all corners of the globe for his seminal work The Alchemist –finally returns with a story that tugs at the heart but is food for the mind as well. Direct to the point but with the occasional segue ways that make this work completely amusing, Coelho provides us readers a new way to have fun, relax, and get away from our own miseries.

Like the works of Latin American writers before him and even those by his contemporaries, his new work allows us readers to conjure in our minds endless adventures, sometimes even make little decisions for the girl Maria as if her life was our own, and we want to urge her to go on and reach for her dreams. This is a book of endless possibilities, following a manner of exciting story-telling style – definitely not a book you can put down. Add to the fact that Maria is a true living person, now living with two kids.

If you are sick of conspiracy theories and church-bashing literature that are so the rage these days, this is for you: a return to basic good storytelling, with humanity captured in a new light - not in an intellectual or snobbish way - but in a manner that appeals to your sense of personal conviction. It is not preachy – Coelho is, in fact, never preachy – but draws from your own life experiences.

Eleven Minutes challenges your beliefs, and questions the morals and values that you hold dear, and finds in you the necessary affirmation that yes, life is good, and that life indeed is how we make it.


"L'exactitude est la politesse des rois" (Louis XVIII) "Punctuality is the courtesy of kings."

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