The Bookcase Project – Book 15: Eleven Minutes by Paulo Coelho

Eleven Minutes by Paulo Coelho, HarperCollins, 2003

I know what it looks like –  that I can’t get enough of Coelho. But I’m going to have a bit of a break now, promise. I wasn’t that impressed with the front cover of Eleven Minutes, but it really doesn’t matter. It’s what’s inside that counts. I usually end up having a right laugh when people try and write about sex. But, unsurprisingly, Coelho pulls it off with ease and sophistication. I bloody hate this man! He is so god damn good at what he does, and he’s so nonchalant when asked about his writing techniques. Anyway, enough about that. I need to get down to the book.

Our protagonist, Maria, is a young Brazilian woman from a remote village who has convinced herself that she will never find true love. But a chance encounter with a Swiss man turns her life around.

Up until then, travel and the idea of going far away had just been a dream, and dreaming is very pleasant as long as you are not forced to put your dreams into practise. That way, we avoid all the risks, frustrations and difficulties, and when we are old, we can always blame other people – preferably our parents, our spouses or our children – for our failure to realise our dreams.  

Maria finds herself in Geneva, but to survive, needs to sell herself, and finds work in a brothel. It isn’t long before Maria moves up the ranks and is the envy of her colleagues. She becomes known for relaxing her clients minds and souls, and develops a fascination for all sorts of sexual experiences.

But then Ralf turns up, a young artist who can see Maria’s ‘inner light,’ and the novel takes a turn as Maria, torn between sexual fantasies and true love needs to decide in which direction her life is going to go.

She knew that, however romantic the situation, one day. Ralf Hart would realise that she was just a prostitute, while he was a respected artist, that she lived in a far-off country that was in a state of permanent crisis, while he lived in paradise, with his life organised and protected from birth. He had received the best education in the best schools, museums and art galleries of the world, while she had barely finished secondary school.  


Eleven Minutes was addictive. I sort of slipped into the story and stayed there throughout. Coelho has the knack to do that to me.