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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"Once upon a time, there was a prostitute called Maria"-thus begins Coelho's latest novel, a book that cannot decide whether it wants to be fairy tale or saga of sexual discovery, so ends up satisfying the demands of neither. In his dedication, bestselling Brazilian novelist Coelho (The Alchemist) tells readers that his book will deal with issues that are "harsh, difficult, shocking," but neither his tame forays into S&M nor his rather technical observations about female anatomy and the sad but hardly new fact that many women are dissatisfied with their sex lives will do much to shock American readers. In Maria, however, the author has created a strong, sensual young woman who grabs our sympathy from the first, as she suffers unrequited love as a child, learns a bit about sex as a teenager and, at 19, makes the ill-advised decision to leave Rio on a Swedish stranger's promise of fame and fortune. Maria's trials and triumphs-she goes from restaurant dancer to high-class prostitute-would make for an entertaining if rather prosaic novel, but Coelho, unfortunately, does not leave it there. Instead, he embarks on a philosophical exploration of sexual love, using Maria's increasingly ponderous and pseudo-philosophical diary entries as a means for expounding on the nature of sexual desire, passion and love. At the end, the story boils down to a rather predictable romance tarted up with a few sexy trappings.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Coelho, author of the best-selling The Alchemist (1993), opens this compelling tale with the classic phrase, "Once upon a time," then halts and ironically addresses the reader regarding the appropriateness of using these words in connection with a prostitute. But the narrator proceeds nonetheless, alternating between third-person narration about the heroine and first-person excerpts from her diaries. Maria has been refused many things while growing up in a Brazilian village, so she readily agrees to travel to Geneva, where promised stardom as a South American dancer awaits. Once there, however, she is duped into a year's work to repay her passage. She manages to wrangle free, and chooses prostitution as a "temporary" solution, all the while equating love with suffering, and using the local library for self-education and her journal for self-expression. As she records her thoughts, she ponders the meaning of 11 minutes: the time it takes to have sex. Coelho tells us sex is civilization's core problem, and that it's far more serious and worrisome than waning rain forests or the hole in the ozone layer. A gripping exploration of the potentially sacred nature of sex within the context of love, this may well become Coelho's next international best-seller. Whitney Scott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: P.S.
  • Paperback: 273 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (March 29, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060589280
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060589288
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (237 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,592 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

The Brazilian author PAULO COELHO is considered one of the most influential authors of our times. His books have sold more than 165 million copies worldwide, have been released in 170 countries and been translated into 80 languages.

Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1947, he soon discovered his vocation for writing. He worked as a director, theater actor, songwriter and journalist. His collaboration with Brazilian composer and singer Raúl Seixas gave some of the greatest classic rock songs in Brazil. In 1986, a special meeting led him to make the pilgrimage to Saint James Compostela (in Spain). The Road to Santiago was not only a common pilgrimage but a turning point in his existence. A year later, he wrote 'The Pilgrimage', an autobiographical novel that is considered the beginning of his career.

In the following year, COELHO published 'The Alchemist'. Slow initial sales convinced his first publisher to drop the novel, but it went on to become one of the best selling Brazilian books of all time.

Other titles include 'Brida' (1990), 'The Valkyries' (1992), 'By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept' (1994), the collection of his best columns published in the Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo entitle 'Maktub' (1994), the compilation of texts 'Phrases' (1995), 'The Fifth Mountain' (1996), 'Manual of a Warrior of Light' (1997), 'Veronika decides to die' (1998), 'The Devil and Miss Prym' (2000), the compilation of traditional tales in 'Stories for parents, children and grandchildren' (2001), 'Eleven Minutes' (2003), 'The Zahir' (2005), 'Like the Flowing River' (2006), 'The Witch of Portobello' (2006), 'The Winner Stands Alone' (2008), 'Aleph' (2010), 'Manuscript found in Accra' (2012) and 'Adultery' (2014).

He has received numerous prestigious international awards. He is member of the Academy of Letters of Brazil since 2002 and Messenger of Peace by the United Nations since 2007. In 2009 he received the Guinness World Record for the most translated author for the same book (The Alchemist).

The man behind the author likes to write and practices Kyudo - a meditative archery. He loves reading, walking, football and computers. In that sense, he has always maintained a close contact with his readers but now, and thanks to the new media, he has established an incredible feedback with them. Paulo was the second most influential celebrity on Twitter in 2010 according to Forbes and he is the writer with the highest number of followers in the social media.

In the past years Paulo Coelho has expanded his presence in the internet with his daily blogs in Wordpress (http://paulocoelhoblog.com), Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Paulo-Coelho/11777366210), Twitter (https://twitter.com/paulocoelho) & Instagram (http://instagram.com/alkmist), among others. He is equally present in media sharing sites such as Youtube (http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=paulabraconnot) and Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulo_coelho/sets) , offering on a regular basis not only texts but also videos and pictures to his readers.

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

83 of 91 people found the following review helpful By Debbie Lee Wesselmann TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Paulo Coelho's title refers to what his protagonist Maria discovers about the sexual act: it takes only eleven minutes on average to complete and yet people are obsessed with it. The novel begins in Brazil, where young Maria suffers her first unrequited loves and determines that she will never bare her heart again. When an accidental meeting on a Rio beach offers Maria an Swiss adventure, she leaves her Brazilian life behind. Once in Geneva, she becomes a prostitute by night and a consumer of books and facts by day. What Maria learns as she explores both the darkest and the most mundane recesses of desire seems to confirm what she has believed all along, that eleven minutes of pleasure is hardly worth the effort. However, when she meets two extraordinarily different gentlemen who take her to unexpected places within herself, the truth of these eleven minutes is challenged.
The novel begins like a fairy tale - "Once upon a time, there was a prostitute named Maria" - and this opening sentence unfortunately sets a cold, impersonal tone that takes Coelho several chapters to overcome. Although the language retains this removed simplicity throughout, Maria's predicament gradually engages the reader as Maria takes a more active and personal role in the story. Maria, it is clear, is not an "average" prostitute - if there can be such a person - and her unique perspective forms the soul of ELEVEN MINUTES. Her ambition and curiosity distinguish her from not only her colleagues but from everyone else in Geneva.
At times the intellectual discussions of desire and love can get tedious, as Coelho is at his best in the midst of scenes and description, but overall this novel is a lively "fairy tale" with a prostitute as its unlikely heroine.
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Katie on January 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the second book I've read from this author, and I am quite stunned by how different "The Alchemist" is from this book, "Eleven Minutes". Yet, even with their many differences, there is still the similar thread of telling a story that will make the reader think about their own lives, their own beliefs & their own thoughts...

"Eleven Minutes" is, on the surface, a book about sex - and all the good and bad associated with it. However, if you're able to get through the more graphic parts with an open mind, you will find that this is more a book about love - and how we confuse sex & love - and how we no longer seem to be able to find the love in sex...

It is about one woman's journey from an innocent young girl who believed that she had squandered her only chance at love, to a young woman who chooses the life of prostitution, to a woman who, although still young, has decided to open her heart again to allow "real" love in.

Although I found this book to be really interesting, I have to point out that it's not for the "faint of heart", nor is it for people who believe that sex is a sin. In fact, I believe that the only way one can gain anything from this book is if they approach it with a totally open mind, and allow the author to take you along on this journey, and to help you learn what you will along the way...

An interesting side note is that this book is based on a true story.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By CincinnatiPOV on June 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I admit it - I don't like surprises. When I go to a restaurant, I always order the same thing. After all, if I know one thing is good, why try something else? Surprise parties? I hate them - they scare the crap out of me. Plot twists in movies? I think they're so rarely done well, they only annoy me.
So when I saw Paulo Coehlo's new book, Eleven Minutes, on the bookshelf, I knew I had to get it. After all, I adored the other book I had read by him, The Alchemist. I reveled in the idea of curling up on my couch with an old friend - how I equate reading books by authors I like.
Eleven Minutes is a book about sex. You can cut it other ways, but that's what it comes down to. The title itself refers to the length of time it takes to commit the act. The world we live in revolves around sex, no matter how much people try to disguise or argue that fact. Rather than dispute it or make sex ugly, Coehlo presents sex as a beautiful lesson to be mastered as one gains experience.
Maria is a prostitute from a small town in Brazil who gets convinced to move to Geneva, Switzerland, to become a stage sensation. Doing Brazilian dances at a sleazy bar does not bring the fame Maria wishes so she gets out of her contract and tries to fend for herself in Geneva. With no money and little knowledge of the language though, she ends up working as a prostitute.
While Maria's entrance into prostitution is probably pretty typical, she is not who one imagines when they think of a sex worker. She visits the library religiously and during downtimes at her workplace, she reads and takes notes on matters of psychiatry, love, sex and farm management. She learns to provide for her clients physical and mental needs.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By School Teacher on October 18, 2005
Format: Paperback
What is sex? This is what Coelho seems to be asking, and ultimately answering (not to my satisfaction, though) in this unlikely novel. In his characteristic fairy-tale style,(a story-teller who seems a bit detached) he tackles the mind of a prostitute, and we follow her progression from pretty and naive teenager in rural Brazil, through the big city and on through to Switzerland where she eventually becomes a prostitute, but one who apparently doesn't quite get what sex is all about, that is, she doesn't reach orgasm.

To Coelho orgasm and the joy of sex apparently are the gates to the uyltimate symbolic union with the Divine. As a man, he seems to be exploring a woman's sexuality and the connection to spirituality.

I didn't get the connection, and feel that his other novel "The Alchemist" is a better book, which does lead us to existential exploration of our perennial quest for self.

For those who want a good read with serious metaphysical explorations, read "The Alchemist". Also read Grigor Fedan's "Dream Maker:A Mystical Tale". Both novels are excellent in their own right. The first is a parable of life, the second tackles the "big questions" and is a true story of reincarnation.
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