On reading the first few pages of Eleven Minutes, you might first be intrigued by the line about ISIS; then assume that Paulo Coehlo is telling the story of a prostitute and her transition. But that’s if you are not familiar with his stories.
Paulo Coehlo stuns us once again with his infinite wisdom and his ability to infuse a certain spiritual depth into seemingly normal stories. Eleven Minutes is a story about love, self-discovery and following dreams, themes that was explored in The Alchemist. Coelho gives us an insight into the world of human trafficking and prostitution in Geneva and Brazil.
Maria starts out as an average girl in a small town in Brazil, a quiet place where she longs for the glamour of city life. Paulo Coehlo depicts Maria as a girl with usual girl dream: bigger life, dreams of being swept away by her prince charming and having two children who will grow to become very successful. In Eleven Minutes Paulo Coehlo shifts from the usual fairy-tale-like narration he used in the Alchemist and gives a harsh twist to the story. Through Maria’s life, he exposes the world of human trafficking when Maria moves to the city for a holiday, is tricked by a Swiss business man who does not speak Portuguese, but hires a guard and tour guide to help translate. This language barrier makes it easy for Maria to be shipped away to far away Switzerland. The story takes an interesting twist at this point; Maria is a very intelligent woman and decides to read and write in her diary she has had since she was little. Her search for exposure in this new country allows her to find out the labor laws which she uses against the Swiss business man. She decides to become a model and begins to look for a job in many agencies.
In Eleven Minutes, Paulo Coehlo shows Maria as a strong independent woman who begins to think of saving money and starting a farm when she gets back to Brazil. She makes friends with the librarian at the public library who turns out to be one of the few friends Maria makes in Switzerland. Her quest to find employment leads her into the intricate network of prostitution and night clubs in Switzerland. Paulo Coehlo gives us a deep insight to the secrets of love, the sacred art of sex, and the limits to the pleasures that border the extremity of pain, as Maria meets Ralf Hart on the road to Santiago, a place he, Paulo Coehlo, has been to, and begin a beautiful but unusual relationship. The fairy tale nature is restored towards the end of the story when Ralf Hart follows Maria with a bunch of flowers to the airport in Paris.
About the reviewer
Aisha Kabiru Mohammed is a Law student in Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. A writer, poet and blogger. When she’s not buried nose deep in law books or writing. She spends her time researching ancient Egyptian mythology and singing. Aisha’s movement across Nigeria while growing up and mixed religious and ethnic background makes her writing and opinions about Nigerian culture especially northern Nigerian culture objective. She’s currently working on an anthology about Northern Nigerian girls.