Eleven Minutes by Paulo Coelho

Eleven-MinutesAlthough Eleven Minutes is a fiction, I find it the most difficult fiction to absorb and turn it into words. First of all, yes, there are detailed information on the characters’ development and personalities; secondly, there is a great deal of adventure of different places going through in the book, but I don’t think this book is mainly plot-driven as a fiction; it is full of self-expression, imagination and wisdom, the ideas formed in it make me feel like the book is nonexistent and that I am reading it in a dream-like state. Charles Dickens says, “An idea, like a ghost, must be spoken to a little before it will explain itself.” I am admired by Paulo Coelho that his honest and brilliant ideas flow so smoothly and flawlessly on paper. Besides, Eleven Minutes is my first attempt on his fiction, and I must try to write something about it. At the same time, I can absorb his ideas better.

So let me introduce our heroine, Maria. Born in small village in Brazil, she has gone through a lot of failures and disappointment on love since childhood. She wonders how love (unrequited ones and given ones etc) , no matter how hard she keeps trying to define it, keeps revealing itself as something so abhorrent. When she is in her twenties, thinking as a once-in-an-lifetime opportunity she can’t miss and the shadow that has cast on her (to get herself free), she flies abroad to Switzerland, and since then, she becomes a dancer in a cabaret, a learner in French, a job-seeker in a modelling agency field. She has found herself freedom, solitude and independence she has never experienced before, and has connected as much to her thoughts. First of all, she comes to a state of independence:

Independence (or feminism?)

  • If I can walk on my own, I can go whenever I like.
  • Difficulties help ones to get what he wants!
  • Roller coaster make you trapped and sick, terrified of every bend, waiting to get off. However, if I believe that the track is my destiny and that God is in charge of the machine, then the nightmare becomes something thrilling.
  • Life always waits for some crisis to occur before revealing itself as its most brilliant.

Independence to Despair

Yes. Independence is always good. But what if your faith is not unshaken? What if, after a certain period of time, you ask yourself: am I only chosen by fate but not by myself? You will get undertaken by despair, but you couldn’t go back to the start, and that would lead you to a state of extremity. She finally works as a prostitute in “Copacabana” – a bar found in Geneva’s red-light district and entrusted herself in the hands of money and sex.Only in this work which people consider an utter devastation and in extreme condition could she be able to embark on a journey  inspired by feelings of despair and pain, in order to study the subject of LOVE and things that are composed in it.

  • I am not a body with a soul, I am a soul that has a visible part called the body…I have been more conscious of the presence of this soul than usual. It watched me…It’s been such a long time since I though about love or anything called love…But if I don’t think about love, I will be nothing…I need to write about love – otherwise, my soul won’t survive.

 On Love

As Paul Coelho says in The Alchemist, “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” It applies to Maria’s case. At that time when she is in the question of love and when she is right in her time needing love the most, her hero comes – Ralf Hart, and two “created the link that was lacking in the universe”. Like what he quotes from Plato’s saying; a man and a woman were not separated at first, they were one human being. To undermine the power, Greek Gods decided to cut them in half, so up to this day, men and women are trying to find the other halves in their lifetime. To me, Maria and Ralf complement each other and they will meet inevitably. One is seeking and trying to make herself happy but unfulfilled (missing love, only sex exists) ; one is seeking and trying to make others happy, also unfulfilled. In this case, they help each other out. But first, they must empty themselves and start again in order to reach the state of balance and equilibrium to understand the lack of love.

  • Love is not to be found in someone else, but in ourselves; we simply awaken it. But in order to do that, we need the other person.

Love consists of passion and desire. Passion, according to Maria, is “earth-shaking”, you can either keep it bay because it gives you a fervor of desire that you may avoid to surrender to it and change your everything. Love is not to possess anyone. But when the passion is gone, the good is unchanged. But what about sex? It is a “genital embrace”, a sense of overflowing…people are not reaching to the climax because they are often not recognising the body with soul, only body to body, and being born a human, we don’t need a self-help book to teach us…When we have reached the ultimate love, we feel like a divine dance in the universe (which is opposite to the prostitute business, which dance comes first).

Concerning the the above-mentioned about the non-possession of love, I like what the writer says about pleasurable longings:

  • If her heart began to complain about his absence or about things she shouldn’t have said while they were together, she would say to herself: “Oh, so you want to think about that, do you? All right, then, you do what you like, while I get on with more important things”.

On Pain

“Pleasure is never as pleasant as we expected it to be and pain is always more painful. The pain in the world always outweighs the pleasure. If you don’t believe it, compare the respective feelings of two animals, one of which is eating the other.”  – Schopenhauer

What about pain? This book also deals with the subject of pain related to pleasure, but to my understanding  it is a roundabout way to experience love, a sacrifice that people think they have to go through because they are guilty to own up to acknowledge love in a straight-ahead way, in order to justify themselves they deserve love. Up to this point I don’t know what I am talking about. Love is free, is conscious.

Finally it seems like Maria has finished her pilgrimage and resurrected to a whole new person be able to find love and hence the pleasure in herself on sex, so is Ralf. Love and sex. The end. Good book, full of wisdom, spiritual thoughts and quotable sayings. Expect the unexpected is the concept I like the most. Finding, searching and understanding yourself, your body, your soul as devotedly as you can.


Currently reading

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

“If the Doctor, with a large birch, had appeared bodily to him, even at the age of threescore and eight, and had said in awful voice, ‘Boy, take down your pant — ‘? Well, well, Miss Sedley was exceedingly alarmed at this act of insubordination.”

Eleven Minutes by Paulo Coelho

“I can choose either to be a victim of the world or an adventurer in search of treasure. It’s all a question of how I view my life.”