Music, art, literature, and nature…

Maria’s Fairy tale

I’ve made this book review for my World Lit subject when I was in college. “11 minutes” is the first Paolo Coelho book that I have read. I’m thankful for my World Lit teacher, Mrs. Erlinda Cayao, for introducing me to a good writer.

I’ve tried editing this but since its kinda long… well… I’m just lazy… I’ve actually made another book review. It’s for “the Alchemist.” I just don’t know where I put that. I no longer have a copy…


All my life, I thought of love as some kind of voluntary enslavement. Well, that’s a lie freedom only exists when love is present. The person, who gives him or herself wholly, the person who feels freest, is the person who loves most wholeheartedly. And the person who loves wholeheartedly feels free. The true experience of freedom: having the most important thing in the world without owning it.

 11 minutes of Paulo Coelho is the story of a young Brazilian girl who has so many dreams, simple dreams, in life that she wanted to achieve someday. As she ages, she gained interest in finding true love and understanding it’s meaning and gaining experience in life. She found out how painful it is to fall in love. She tried to forget about love and concentrated in doing her best for her family but LOVE always summoned her back. She became a prostitute in Switzerland, became numb about her new found universe but still believed in love and hoped that someday, somewhere she will find her Prince. She always thinks like this, though always she runs short in love, amidst everything LOVE, the spirit of loving became the food for her soul.

The title of the book “11 Minutes” is the roughly estimate or a hypothetical average duration for an act of coitus, which was indicated in the book. However, one might be surprised or intrigued at how such title was given to the book, if you haven’t read the part where Maria discovered and estimated the actual duration of coitus, after pondering about her work and how many man paid a lot just to experience the 11 minutes.

Coelho’s attempt of leaving a mark on the part of the readers was successfully done and the title itself contributed to it. The title “11 minutes” doesn’t simply mean the act of coitus alone nor the actual 11 minutes but the “time” one has given up and spent in searching for something or someone that will bring joy or happiness to our life whether it is just temporary or for forever. It also represents the “experience” one can get from all the hardships and successes we will encounter in our journey through life. The “11 minutes” is a mere reflection of how man discovers his desires, frustrations and emotions… the roller coaster ride of life, and is seen in Maria’s story.

The plot of the story, just like other stories, begins with a simple beginning. In this case; Maria’s childhood, her innocent world. Then it stemmed out into a more complicated scenario. She struggled with the obstacles of being hurt because of love. She fell in love and fell out of love. She learned about physical union, embraced it and became part of it. She stumbled but learned to stand up, made her own decisions, followed her dreams and grasped every opportunity that comes her way.

Maria’s quest in Switzerland started in a crossroad where she made a decision in Rio de Janeiro. “Everything tells me that I am about to make a wrong decision, but making mistakes is part of life. What does the world want of me? Does it want me to take no willing to go back where I came from because I didn’t have the courage to say ‘yes’ to life?” Like anyone who are making decisions; Maria suffered in pondering all her options on whether or not she will go with Roger but she remained strong and embraced what life would bring her.

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 life” Maria was exiled in an unknown land but she never remained a prisoner. Instead she went on, straight ahead. She was put down but stood up. Learning the language of the land became her weapon, in what seemed a war in her life.

Maria’s decision of just working in Copacabana without any interruptions and involvements became silent promises for her when she met Ralf Hart, a renowned painter who saw her “light”. Saw her soul beyond her flesh… forgetting that she was just a prostitute. She had spent the last 9 months controlling the world around her and shortly before she was due to go back to her own country, she was finding that she was capable of loving without demanding anything in return and of suffering for no reason. It was if life had chosen this strange, sordid way of teaching her something about her own mysteries, her light and her darkness. No matter how she longed for him, Maria was still on her position of going back to Brazil but secretly wished that somehow, something might happen that will make her turn back and face her beloved. Embraced him and become part of each other’s lives for a long time, which eventually ended up, in a happily ever after just like in fairy tales.

Coelho used the third person objective as the point of view. He narrated the flow of the story and how each character contributed to a heartwarming, magnificent, colorful and adventurous life of Maria; the Understanding mother, the Innocent Girl, the Femme Fatale and the real Maria outside her work. The third person was suitable for the story for its advantage. The reader can look into the whole picture, to somebody’s story and into the character’s mind.

The first setting of the novel was in Brazil. Maria lived in a simple house with a simple life together with her parents. For the simplicity of the setting depicted the innocence of Maria. As she grew up and started to drift away from home, things become complicated. The beach in Rio de Janeiro; tells us about the inviting waves, to swim in an unknown deep. For this where Maria made her decision. Though she doesn’t know what her life in Switzerland will be, she took the risks and went to the land of watches and chocolates. Maria became much far from home and much far from her innocence. She already gained more experience and unfolded several meanings in life and love. Switzerland is a rich country and in the beautiful city of Geneva, where everyone almost technically knew each other. Beside the luxury and the glamor of the country and the city, lies the truth in the society that there are women selling their flesh for money and there are men who paid a lot for it. Copacabana is where Maria worked as a prostitute. This is where businessmen, marines, bankers and other men go in search for a piece of time being with someone whom will ease their tensions and pressures in the outside world. The club is much like a room of our desires and emotions mixed up; a small part of our world that will show our fears, frustrations and feelings.

The theme of “11 minutes” revolved in DREAMS, LOVE and LIFE. Maria’s story from the very beginning showed how she wanted to make all her dreams come true like going to another place, finding a suitable job for her and having a man whom she wanted to grow old with. It’s a matter of following your dreams, making it into reality. Being a kid, these dreams seemed very attainable but it was seen in Maria’s story that it was very hard for her to achieve them. She made wrong decisions, made mistakes, fell, stumbled, bled, stood up, cried, laughed… Though not moralistic in the sense, but still Maria found a way of having enough money for her family, attaining knowledge and gaining experience.

In her quest, Maria always struggled with LOVE. It broke her heart, left a mark and cured by somebody else. LOVE is always in Maria’s heart and soul. That no matter what she does like running from it, she always run across it. Even in the slightest part of her life that she almost became numb because of her work… and in the strangest place she found love, seating on a chair, painting a chemist and telling her that he saw her light.

The melting pot or the main theme of the novel is LIFE. Coelho showed that life is really like this. We are making our own craft. We used a string, started in one end then went on, following the line. It’s our choice whether we cut the string and use another one or continue using the string. It is us who choose our own fate not other people but our self alone.

The novel showed two conflicts, man against man and man against himself. Maria hurdled in trying to cope up with the demanding environment in Geneva, led her to some misunderstanding with the other characters like Roger, the Swiss who brought her to Switzerland and the other prostitutes who envied her, but these are minor conflicts or scenarios and the man against man is not vividly seen in the novel.

The most striking and interesting is the man against himself conflict that revolved around the whole story. It is proved in Maria’s diary, “I am two woman; one wants to be a slave to routine, to family life, to the things that can be planned and achieved. I’m a housewife and a prostitute, both of us living in the same body and doing battle with each other.”

 Maria is the main character of the story and it was her where all the beauty of the novel started and ended. She was once a simple girl living in her own universe. She dreamt, wished, and prayed that someday all things will turn her side at the right time. She found out how ugly life can be. Maria’s character is very vulnerable. She can easily be touched, unknowingly. No matter how she pretended not to care but still some things really hit her… hard, especially with the matters of the human heart.

The prostitute Nyah, the librarian, Roger, Milan, Terence were the characters Maria shared pieces of her life. Some maybe bad thoughts but others were happy memories. They all contributed to how Maria viewed her life, herself. They added thorns and flowers to Maria’s path.

Ralf Hart, a stranger whom she met in a Café during her break before going to work. He seemed nothing to her, an unknown person, whom she didn’t pay attention to not until he called her and asked her to be the model of his painting. Then he soon became the rainbow of Maria’s life after a Hurricane hit her.

Coelho is a Brazilian writer who lived in Rio de Janeiro. His famous writings are the Alchemist, the Fifth Mountain, Veronica Decides to Die, and Pilgrimage. His way of writing is very realistic and spiritual. Just like his famous novels, in the “11 Minutes”, he made Maria’s character portrayed a woman that is seen in every woman who is vulnerable and ambitious. He also made use of Maria’s diary to attest the sweet and bitter juice of life. His thoughts were very magnificent and powerful that anyone who will read the novel would grasp and realize how true it is to life.

“Once upon a time, there was a prostitute called Maria…”11 minutes, a satisfying novel that you would turn every page one after the other once you have started it. In life, just like every body else we can always start our own story with “once upon a time” and ended it with the words “the end”. It is “us” who choose our fate and ride our own roller coaster. That’s why we; at all times, have a choice. Who knows just like in fairytales, we will live happily ever after.


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