Eleven Minutes: A Novel

Eleven Minutes: A Novel

by Paulo Coelho

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Eleven Minutes is the story of Maria, a young girl from a Brazilian village, whose first innocent brushes with love leave her heartbroken. At a tender age, she becomes convinced that she will never find true love, instead believing that "love is a terrible thing that will make you suffer. . . ." A chance meeting in Rio takes her to Geneva, where she dreams of finding fame and fortune. Maria's despairing view of love is put to the test when she meets a handsome young painter. In this odyssey of self-discovery, Maria has to choose between pursuing a path of darkness -- sexual pleasure for its own sake -- or risking everything to find her own "inner light" and the possibility of sacred sex, sex in the context of love.

This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061835575
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/13/2009
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 249,818
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Paulo Coelho, born in Rio de Janeiro in 1947, is one of the bestselling and most influential authors in the world. The Alchemist, The Pilgrimage, The Valkyries, Brida, Veronika Decides to Die, Eleven Minutes, The Zahir, The Witch of Portobello, The Winner Stands Alone, Aleph, Manuscript Found in Accra, and Adultery, among others, have sold over 175 million copies worldwide, and The Alchemist has been on the New York Times bestseller list for over 360 weeks.

Paulo Coelho has been a member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters since 2002, and in 2007, he was appointed United Nations Messenger of Peace. He is also the most followed author on social media.


Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Date of Birth:

August 24, 1947

Place of Birth:

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


Left law school in second year

Read an Excerpt

Once upon a time, there was a prostitute called Maria. Wait a minute. "Once upon a time" is how all the best children's stories begin and "prostitute" is a word for adults. How can I start a book with this apparent contradiction? But since, at every moment of our lives, we all have one foot in a fairy tale and the other in the abyss, let's keep that beginning.

Once upon a time, there was a prostitute called Maria.

Like all prostitutes, she was born both innocent and a virgin, and, as an adolescent, she dreamed of meeting the man of her life (rich, handsome, intelligent), of getting married (in a wedding dress), having two children (who would grow up to be famous) and living in a lovely house (with a sea view). Her father was a traveling salesman, her mother a seamstress, and her hometown, in the interior of Brazil, had only one cinema, one nightclub and one bank, which was why Maria was always hoping that one day, without warning, her Prince Charming would arrive, sweep her off her feet and take her away with him so that they could conquer the world together.

While she was waiting for her Prince Charming to appear, all she could do was dream. She fell in love for the first time when she was eleven, en route from her house to school. On the first day of term, she discovered that she was not alone on her way to school: making the same journey was a boy who lived in her neighborhood and who shared the same timetable. They never exchanged a single word, but gradually Maria became aware that, for her, the best part of the day were those moments spent going to school: moments of dust, thirst and weariness, with the sun beating down, the boy walking fast, and with her trying her hardest to keep up.

This scene was repeated month after month; Maria, who hated studying and whose only other distraction in life was television, began to wish that the days would pass quickly; she waited eagerly for each journey to school and, unlike other girls her age, she found the weekends deadly dull. Given that the hours pass more slowly for a child than for an adult, she suffered greatly and found the days far too long simply because they allowed her only ten minutes to be with the love of her life and thousands of hours to spend thinking about him, imagining how good it would be if they could talk.

Then it happened.

One morning, on the way to school, the boy came up to her and asked if he could borrow a pencil. Maria didn't reply; in fact, she seemed rather irritated by this unexpected approach and even quickened her step. She had felt petrified when she saw him coming toward her, terrified that he might realize how much she loved him, how eagerly she had waited for him, how she had dreamed of taking his hand, of walking straight past the school gates with him and continuing along the road to the end, where-people said-there was a big city, film stars and television stars, cars, lots of cinemas, and an endless number of fun things to do.

For the rest of the day, she couldn't concentrate on her lessons, tormented by her own absurd behavior, but, at the same time, relieved, because she knew that the boy had noticed her too, and that the pencil had just been an excuse to start a conversation, because when he came over to her, she had noticed that he already had a pen in his pocket. She waited for the next time, and during that night-and the nights that followed-she went over and over what she would say to him, until she found the right way to begin a story that would never end.

But there was no next time, for although they continued to walk to school together, with Maria sometimes a few steps ahead, clutching a pencil in her right hand, and at other times, walking slightly behind him so that she could gaze at him tenderly, he never said another word to her, and she had to content herself with loving and suffering in silence until the end of the school year.

During the interminable school holidays that followed, she woke up one morning to find that she had blood on her legs and was convinced she was going to die. She decided to leave a letter for the boy, telling him that he had been the great love of her life, and then she would go off into the bush and doubtless be killed by one of the two monsters that terrorized the country people round about: the werewolf and the mula-sem-cabeça (said to be a priest's mistress transformed into a mule and doomed to wander the night). That way, her parents wouldn't suffer too much over her death, for, although constantly beset by tragedies, the poor are always hopeful, and her parents would persuade themselves that she had been kidnapped by a wealthy, childless family, but would return one day, rich and famous, while the current (and eternal) love of her life would never forget her, torturing himself each day for not having spoken to her again.

She never did write that letter because her mother came into the room, saw the bloodstained sheets, smiled and said:

"Now you're a young woman."

Maria wondered what the connection was between the blood on her legs and her becoming a young woman, but her mother wasn't able to give her a satisfactory explanation: she just said that it was normal, and that, from now on, for four or five days a month, she would have to wear something like a doll's pillow between her legs. Maria asked if men used some kind of tube to stop the blood going all over their trousers, and was told that this was something that only happened to women.

Reading Group Guide


Maria is a young girl from a Brazilian village whose first innocent brushes with love leave her heartbroken. At a tender age, she becomes convinced that she will never find true love, instead believing that "Love is a terrible thing that will make you suffer…." A chance meeting in Rio takes her to Geneva, where she dreams of finding fame and fortune, yet ends up working as a prostitute.

In Geneva, Maria's despairing view of love is put to the test when she meets a handsome young painter. In this odyssey of self-discovery, Maria has to choose between pursuing a path of darkness, sexual pleasure for its own sake, or risking everything to find her own "inner light" and the possibility of sacred sex: sex in the context of love.

Discussion Questions

  1. In what ways is Maria's process of self-discovery similar to the rites of passage all young women experience?

  2. Of all the turning points in Maria's life, which was the most crucial and why?

  3. Why do you think Paulo Coelho chose a prostitute as a protagonist for a parable on the sacred nature of sex? Can you think of other memorable literary figures who resemble Maria?

About the author

Born in Brazil, Paulo Coelho is one of the most beloved storytellers of our time, renowned for his international bestseller The Alchemist. His books have been translated into 56 languages and published in 150 countries. He is also the recipient of numerous prestigious international awards, among them the Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum, Frances's Chevalier de l'Ordre National de la Légion d'Honneur, and Germany's Bambi 2001 Award. He was inducted at the Brazillian Academy of Letters in 2002. Mr. Coelho writes a weekly column syndicated throughout the world.

Customer Reviews

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Eleven Minutes 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 169 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. It really puts a different outlook on sex and love, and it makes you step back and think about not only the story but also your own life. A must read!!!
C-Castillo More than 1 year ago
This is my first book by Paulo Coelho and I've become in love with his writing after reading "Eleven Minutes" Its a great story with a broader meaning , at least thats what I got from it. It has changed my outlook on life and in certain aspects I can relate to Maria. I would definitely reccommend this book to others.
valvintage More than 1 year ago
We always have questions about love and sex and sometimes forget to give ourselves a chance. This novel takes romance out of love and makes it even more meaningful. It is about personal aspirations and finding true love getting there.
Aimee_Leon More than 1 year ago
This insightful story is about a young woman named Maria. She is filled with desires, and dreams. Maria's journey to Geneva thru sex, prostitution & love. She learned plenty from her experiences and clients, but when Maria has encounters a young artist named Ralf. Who enlightens Maria with not only sex, history, also soul searching and love. Paulo Coelho's writing was excellent and sensual. He did a marvalous This novel was such a page turner that it was so hard to put down. I loved it alot. The story was very moving and unforgetable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is definitely one of my favorite books from Paulo Coelho. He presents a different perspective of sexuality and he does it well. A must read.
Carolina_Felix More than 1 year ago
This book is not about sex or prostitution; it's about love and dreams and reminds us that everyone is allowed to have both. Only Coelho could transform a prostitute saga in an inspiring life history. As you read each page, you will feel sorry for Maria, you will judge her, you may even not like her but it will be impossible to put down the book until you find out what happens at the end.
Wordzmind More than 1 year ago
Eleven Minutes by Paulo Coelho is a reminder that the oldest profession is not always the chosen profession. Sometimes economical realities make the decission. Maria is a stranger in a strange land and must survive. Maria starts out as a small town girl with big dreams and she naively believes that they are being fulfilled. She learns the hard way however she keeps dreaming and planning for a brighter future. A future where the void she feels is filled. What I found mesmerizing about Eleven Minutes is that Maria never gave up. She never settled for her lot in life. There was always a rainbow that would shine tomorrow. And she was always willing to follow where her heart and mind would venture. What made the story was the characters that she met who she learned from. She learned pain and she learned healing. Eleven Minutes is a testament of life. I highly recommend Eleven Minutes but I caution young readers; some teenagers might not be ready for the lessons that this book teaches. Eleven Minutes does not take a stand on prostitution, it is just a means for telling the story. Love is the true Apex of the story. Read Eleven Minutes, you will thank yourself for doing so.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book in two days. I was an dramactic and intellectually stimulating book. I recommended it to anyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the first Coehlo book I read. I loved it! It was sensitive and thought provoking. A definite must read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was my first experience with this author and I was completely captivated. This tale pulls you in from the beginning and seduces your mind and senses.
kherrington on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
CRAP!!! This is one of the worst books that I have ever read! Bad writing -- trite platitudes, little conflict, unrealistic characters. Even the sex scenes are BORING!!! Don't waste your time on this badly written, preachy, new age-y waste of paper.
Luli81 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For me, the best by so far of Coelho's novels. A moving story of a prostitute who is able to find redemption and light. Bravo
misibea on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have just finished reading 'Eleven Minutes' by Paul Coelho. I was lent this book by a friend who raved about it. We had been talking about books one day and she said that I had to read this book. It was one of her all time favorites. Having previously read 'The Alchemist' and enjoyed it. In the past I have had trouble reading some of Coelho's other works.Eleven Minutes is an easy read, frankly addressing sex and sexual pursuits. The back cover describes the novel as "gripping and daring". I disagree. I did not find it at all gripping, but I can see where one could describe it as daring. Paul Coelho manages to discuss the different facets of sex, romance and reality in a comfortable language that is non confrontational to the reader."Eleven Minutes" has managed to re-ignite my interest is Coelho's other works and I am now off to try another of his books.
margarethdane141516 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I have ever read. It taught me that life is not as easy as a fairy tale, but it can be one too. It all depends on how you view your life. This book really touched my heart. I'm glad that Maria is not an ordinary woman, that even though her work is not socially accepted, she is not ashamed of it. And what I like about her most is her courage. She taught me that I shouldn't afraid of my future, that sorrow and grief can never be avoided. That in whatever I do, I should always not let opportunities pass me, and regret it later. That money is not what is always important. Your soul, you dignity, and most of all, love, is what matters. I will always remember her when times get rough and when I have doubts. I will always remember the lesson this book taught me: to always believe in pure and blind love. I have been using my head more than my heart frequently, but now I will try to balance both and know what to choose and never regret it afterward ; to treat everything as an opportunity, and most of all, to love.
pyariladki on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is my first Paulo Coelho book that I have read. My mother-in-law, who speaks little English, brought it home for me from the school library. I must say I was startled at how frank Coelho spoke about sex and in such detail. The book was definitely R rated if not on the verge of X rated. I personally would not recommend this book for just leisurely reading, unless of course you are looking for something absolutely scandalous.And while it was not the book I was expecting, I still read it, every page. And I couldn't help but be slightly disappointed once I reached the end. I wanted more. I wanted to know where the relationship went with Ralf and what career Maria would finally end up with. But in the end it simply was not my cup of tea. I'll stick to the more conservative.
B9sweety on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Eleven Minutes was an amazing book. Paulo Choelho traps the essence of a women trough the life of Maria. It allows one discover themselves not only as a woman, but also as a friend, a wife, daughter, and a lover!
ukaissi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Eleven minutes is a wonderful book on the sacredness of sex. It is a mixture of love and sex and shows that sex is meaningless if it is unaccompanied by love. Love makes meaning to sex and the eleven minutes which takes a person to have sex will appear lifetime. Among the basic themes of the book also shows that pain should not accompany love. Love is free and should be a source of happiness. Finally Love is a powerful force and no matter what the plans of a person or ambitions nothing will stop love from changing a person's course in life.
rayski on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Brazilian girl leaves for Fame & Fortune in Geneva only to become prostitute. There she learns about life and what real love is.
shimauta on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found his attempt of talking and thinking like a woman a very poor one..
Kirconnell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A simple, young woman from Brazil is swept away to Switzerland by a slightly less than honest club owner and progresses into the world of prostitution. What is most interesting is the manner in which Maria reacts to her changes in fortune. More interesting is that it is based on a true story.Eleven Minutes is my first experience with Paulo Coehlo's work and I am favorably impressed. He writes in a clear, straightforward style reminiscent of George Orwell and Earnest Hemingway, but his words speak volumes. They leave you thinking about so much more than just the story told.
ShelfMonkey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
jbennett on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm glad I didn't read the other reviews before reading this as I enjoyed this book.The story of Maria's escape from poverty and the chances that take her to Geneva seem to me very typical. Unlike many girls in her situation, however, she manages to take control of the situation and this is refreshing if somewhat implausible.
johnthefireman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sexuality, a young rural woman in the city, references to the Camino of Santiago de Compostella - a very good book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book makes you examine your own views of love and sex. Excellent read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
5 stars