Eleven Minutes: A Novel

Eleven Minutes: A Novel

by Paulo Coelho


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Eleven Minutes: A Novel by Paulo Coelho

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060589288
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 03/29/2005
Series: P.S. Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 114,959
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.72(d)

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. 156 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.
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
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I loaded this book expecting to be inspired, but this is not one of Coelo's usual works. If your looking for something to challenge or inspire you like "The Alchemist" pick another of Coelo's books. This started out with some "health class" descriptions of sex, and for the most part it is a story of self discovery of finding that we can be capable of falling into and becoming anybody that we don't want to be. I did not expect such erotic descriptions toward the end of the book though. I kept reading looking for the golden nugget and never found it. I never found anything in this book that inspired or changed me. I almost felt deceived into reading it. If your looking for a little bit of 50 shades of grey mixed in with pretty woman, go for it. I just wish I had been warned before about what this book is. I wouldn't of loaded it had I known.
GabieRetana More than 1 year ago
This is my favorite Coelho book so far!! And I must say.. I've read a lot! if not all of them. The way it's told is just amazing, I read this in less than a day (Yup, that hard to put down). I wish I would have had a highlighter near while reading because there are some beautiful quotes here but since I was too into the story I didn't even bother to look for one. I love it
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved Brida and this book is now my new favorite. I stopped several times to soak in the dialogue between Maria and Ralf. Such a passionate story of live, life, and surrendering to both in pain and pleasure.