Carren's Pitch

Life by Design


Treading Risky Ground

Posted by Carren |

published April 2008

Paulo Coelho is best known for his novel, The Alchemist, a story on reaching for and finding your dreams. Though his works mostly center on themes that, to paraphrase a fan, “make him dream,” Eleven Minutes tackles a darker side of the world.

Eleven Minutes talks about the nature of sexuality. Though still peppered with mystic references, readers are invited into the world of prostitution to examine how sexuality is turned into currency. Coelho then takes this background and contrasts it to sexuality within the framework of love and humanity.

Readers will gradually grow to appreciate sex not merely as an act but a natural extension of a loving relationship. Coelho also delves into the human nature and the variety of reasons each have (from pride to insecurity) to engage in the activity. Maria, a girl from the interiors of Brazil, becomes the central character in the book. Through her journal entries, readers are opened to the world of her wisdom (or sometimes lack thereof). Readers come to identify themselves with Maria’s own pride, need to prove herself, her denial and journey to love.

Though Coelho has chosen a risqué topic intended for more mature audiences, it is one that needs to be said and published in a way that does not dirty or demean, but rather re-positions and adjusts our perhaps narrow perspectives on love and its consequences. He holds up a mirror with which we can see ourselves in his characters – complex, broken and searching for our own convoluted paths in life. To quote his main character Maria, “I am two women; one want to have all the joy, passion and adventure that life can give me. The other wants to be a slave to routine, to family life, to the things that can be planned and achieved. I am a housewife and a prostitute, both of us living in the same body and doing battle with each other.”

Coelho successfully maintains his simple easy to read style, enough for a day’s worth of lazy reading. His masterfully woven words subtly bring to life the intricacies of such a difficult topic as love and sexuality. As Coelho himself takes a risk in publishing this novel, he asks his readers to do the same – risk opening yourself to new experiences and, perhaps, coming out the better for it.


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