Title: Eleven Minutes
Author: Paulo Coelho
Completion Time: A day
Themes: Prostitution, Beauty bias, Love
Once upon a time, there was a prostitute…Yes, you will not get over such an introductory sentence, but Paulo did. Set in a small town in Brazil, 11 minutes follows the story of Maria, a pretty young girl who has dreams bigger than herself.
Born of a seamstress and a travelling salesman, Maria had a pretty average life, dreaming of the day her Prince Charming would waltz in and save her.At every moment of our lives, we always have one foot in a fairy tale and the other in the abyss… Click To Tweet
She first fell in love when eleven. The kind of love where walking to and from school was the highlight of her day. That unrequited love sets the whole pace for Eleven Minutes because it’s when she lost her love.
It was also the instance where she learned the world was way bigger than her small town with one cinema. She then fell in love at 15, had a terrible first kiss, and that ended there.
One of my twitter searches led me to a series of articles about beauty bias and I couldn’t help but notice it’s actually a thing. Prettier people tend to have easier lives, better pay, random promotions, they are smarter, wealthier and healthier.
In fact, the chances of you negotiating a better deal depends on beauty bias, just ask all the executives who hire a pretty junior to sway the decision in international meetings.
And beauty bias did work in Maria’s favour. She even had a standing marriage proposal back home. It’s in Rio de Janeiro where she meets the man who offers her the chance to travel and work in Switzerland. And she takes it.
She soon discovers that it will take her eons to gather the money she needs working as a cabaret until a man offers her a night worth 1000 francs.
It really was an easy decision from then on and her dreams of becoming a famous model slowly diminish. So she visits Rue de Berne and is paid 350 francs for every eleven minutes.
Bored with the rest of her days Maria resorts to the library. She learns as much as she can about sex and farms, and French, and she’s good at it.
BDSM or Love
Until she falls madly in love with a painter, Ralf. A weird combination- a painter who has seen it all, travelled everywhere and with enough money for a generation, Ralf likes Maria for a light she exudes.
He is quite taken with her and he spends more than eleven minutes with her. It is he that teaches her the danger of associating pain with pleasure.
As one of the prettiest girls at the nightclub, she soon gets a special client for 1000 francs a night who introduces her to sadomasochism, and she loves it.
Makes you wonder what Leopold von Sacher-Masoch says in the book Venus in Furs that equates pain with pleasure. But Ralf, having been there done that, dissuades her from that.
Unfortunately, Maria has to go back to Brazil, having had an adventure for a whole year. Luckily, she knows when to quit selling her eleven minutes, time she never gets back. She wants to go back home, buy a farm, and tell stories about Swiss curtness, static electricity and the journey to Copacabana.
She realizes that prostitution is not so different from all the other jobs in that she sells her physical for money while executives sell their brains, and neither of them loves it.Pain and suffering don’t normally go with pleasure Click To Tweet
Paulo Coelho did write eleven minutes well, though the story was originally Marias, and the script is said to have been left for him at his office. And I have to admit, this was my first of his works.
He is an amazing storyteller, hitting all the right themes without projecting bias. Only he could paint Prostitution and BDSM in a positive light. I was impressed immensely.
Sadly, the book had a happy ending despite continuously insisting that the reason Maria and Ralf worked was that they were free.
Truly, the climax was a letdown. Left me feeling like he rewrote the ending because well, fairy tales. Paulo wrote with the utmost precision, saying everything by nothing throughout the book, then poof goes all romantic in the very end.
Just One More Thing
If nothing else, I hope this book teaches you the value of dreaming big, taking a chance when it is presented and riding the rollercoaster that’s life. I hope it tells you that your life is your own and you can always say Yellow or Red to slow down or stop. That you should know when to stop, money is a lot of things but it’s not everything. I hope you recognize beauty bias when you see it and work it to your favour. Then I hope you find love and have a fairy tale Disney ending.