BOOK REVIEW- ELEVEN MINUTES by PAULO COELHO.

BOOK: 11 MINUTES.
AUTHOR: PAULO COELHO.
REVIEWERS; KELVIN KARANJA.
                  FAITH BARBARA.

This review is a duet between @faithbarb and @karanjakev whose websites are https://gatwirimurithi.wordpress.com and https://medium.com/@kelvinkev  respectively.
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“At that moment, however, I felt really frightened, because I knew that my new novel, Eleven Minutes, dealt with a subject that was harsh, difficult, shocking.” ~Paulo Coelho~
In all fairness, even reviewing this book is not leisure skiing or warthog hunting for sport. This is exposing your fantasies to the world unawares. Of all the authors out there, Paulo is the last one we would have placed a favorable bet as likely to write on Orgasms, sex, prostitution, Sadomasochism or seduction, all in one little story that begun with … Once upon a time ... In this book, he explored topics that people rarely speak about over cups of Jasmine tea or steaming cups of Joe. 
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Extract: ‘Maria waited for the light to change, she crossed the road and paused in front of the floral clock; she thought of Ralf, saw again the look of desire In his eyes on the night when she had slipped off the top half of her dress, felt his hands touching her breasts, her sex, her face, and she became wet; and as she looked at the vast column of water in the distance, without even having to touch any part of her own body, she had an orgasm right there, in front of everyone. Not that anyone noticed; they were all far too busy.

That extract is where we begin this review.  You may wonder why we chose to begin on such an elaborate mouth-watering extract. It is not because Maria had an orgasm, but the fashion under which she had it _ She thought about Ralf and the cup overflowed.
At the point where we got the above extract, Maria was yet to have had her first physical sexual encounter with Ralf. But she got an orgasm either way! How you ask?
Extract: Anyone who is in love is making love the whole time, even when they’re not. 
…..
 ‘Anyone capable of feeling knows that it is possible to experience pleasure before even touching the other person’
Yes, you read that right. The story revolves around sex, meaning of sex and why sex is not the act but the desires we replay in our minds months before the real encounter.
In another paradox, the book explores the industry of prostitution as a sex ecosystem where both men and women search for something deeper than sex unawares and which they never get because coitus lasts roughly 11 minutes then money is exchanged. These encounters become a never-ending cycle, an experience whose artificial face is sexual pleasure but underneath the veil, the real face is frustration.
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Maria, is a young Brazilian girl, naïve and wise _ a paradox of sorts_. Her dreams were simple and straightforward, she would meet a handsome man, fall hopelessly or even courageously in love, and they would marry and move to a faraway place.

Unfortunately, her first encounter with love was disappointing. She was 11 years of age and fell in love with a boy. For months, she loved the boy deeply and secretly. She never mastered the courage to speak to the boy but she always looked forward to sunrises, for mornings were her finest hour, moments when she would walk behind the boy on the way to school and fantasize on how it would be like if the boy spoke to her.

One day, the boy spoke, he borrowed a pencil. Maria got mute. She could not speak and neither proffer a pencil. Love had finally spoken, but Maria lost her own breath and the words too. Love deemed her as not ready and neither interested. Henceforth, the boy never attempted to speak to Maria again, and shortly thereafter, the boy’s parents moved town. Maria lived to regret her silence. It was a love she would remember for the rest of her life, as her adulthood journal would later reveal.

That first love would also mark the start of her many disappointments in life at searching for new love and purpose.
One afternoon, like all young people, at least the adventurously naughty ones, Maria decides to inspect her body a little bit, you know, just to make sure her legs are not hairy and stuff. This moment presents an interesting twist to her life.

Extract: She noticed a small gland above her vagina; she began touching it and found that she couldn’t stop; the feelings provoked were so strong and so pleasurable, and her whole body – particularly the part she was touching – became tense. After a while, she began to enter a kind of paradise, the feelings grew in intensity, until she noticed that she could no longer see or hear clearly, everything appeared to be tinged with yellow, and then she moaned with pleasure and had her first orgasm. Orgasm!

She was 15 years of age.
That orgasm, she would later discover, no boy in her dating young life and neither many men in her adulthood would replicate. Only Maria could make herself orgasm through masturbation. This somehow disappointed her because coupled with boys who kept breaking her heart, she was no longer excited about Men and she chose to ignore love entirely. However, she resolved to understand it.

Extract: ‘Although my aim is to understand love, and although I suffer to think of the people to whom I gave my heart, I see that those who touched my heart failed to arouse my body, and that those who aroused my body failed to touch my heart’.
Her desirous dream to travel and explore the world was realized when at 20 years of age she managed to travel to the big city, Rio de Janiero. She had planned to stay there for a week, but destiny had other plans. She met a man from Switzerland who offered her a job as a samba dancer in his club back in Europe. There are interesting twists here before Maria accepts, and within the month, she finds herself in Cologny, Switzerland.

In the entire book, she never goes back to Brazil.
We are fascinated by Maria’s diary more than anything else. 11 Minutes is one book where the protagonist’s diary is the main point of focus. Maria as aforementioned was an exceptionally wise woman and especially her journaling while in Switzerland is an earthquake of wisdom.
While at the Cabaret _ the night club she was working in as a samba dancer _ she fell out with her boss, the man who had fished her from Brazil and she finds herself without a Job in a foreign country. However, she had some money and a valid work permit.

Zealous to search for a new job, she does a photo shoot of herself and sends the pictures to a modelling agency hoping a client would pick her out and give her a job as a model. A call comes through, an Arab man requests for a meet. To her shock, the man offers 1,000 francs if she accepted to sleep with him. It was a lot of money and she was broke and broken enough already. She cries in front of the Arab when she realizes;
 Extract: It wasn’t the agency’s fault, or hers, or the man’s, this was simply how things worked.
That night, Extract: She went to the Arab’s hotel, drank champagne, got herself almost completely drunk, opened her legs, waited for the him to have an orgasm.

It is at the Copacabana, now working as a prostitute, serving nuggets of wisdom and orgasms _which she never experienced herself_ to executives, Pilots, Doctors and such kind of motley that she discovered that men pay for a prostitute for a moment that lasts an average of 11 minutes. But, in doing this, men are always searching for something deeper, something they can’t get from their wives and girlfriends, a connection yet to be understood, a fire which unbeknownst to them, is found in souls meeting, and not sexual organs meeting.
As a prostitute, Maria met Ralf, a youngish Painter, who would later, as elegantly detailed in the book _ make her Know God.

Ralf saw her ‘light’, when, all everybody else saw was an Innocent Girl, the Femme Fatal or ‘the Understanding Mother to grown men’, the three role-plays she perfected.
This painter alleged to see what Maria couldn’t see in herself. In her mind she was a fake, having to keep up appearances and expectations of others towards herself, regretting her past and hiding her real self under future goals and future targets; which were to quit prostitution within the year and buy a ranch back in Brazil and settle gracefully as a farmer.
Maria was accustomed to men and their pick-up lines trying to “pick her up”. But not this Ralf. He was genuinely interested in her as a woman, and as a person, and interestingly he respected her Job.

His approach was softly rattling her soul, and within her, a force was awakening and threatening to prove destructive to everything she held on to. She was guarding herself from falling in love and with it evading the hurt that naturally is inherent with love.
Extract; keeping passion at bay or surrendering blindly to it-which of these two attitudes is the least destructive?
Things began to pick up pace between Maria and Ralf Hart as they strive to understand and grasp this phenomenon called ‘love’. Reading through their conversation feels transformative because their arguments, their words, bleed right into ones’ soul the only way poetry knows how to.
They are both vulnerable and completely honest with each other. Unlike the rest of Switzerland-World where everybody “knows everything”, _People have this disease generally_
Both, chose to believe, that they didn’t have answers to the questions they asked each other about love, life and sex. It is through conversing, sharing of knowledge and sharing of discoveries each had made along their own separate journeys and more importantly sharing of their individual truths and exchanging small gifts that symbolized something, that it occurred to them they were beginning to understand themselves in the realm of sex, without having touched each other or even taken off their clothes to attempt love making.

Extract; really important meetings are planned by the souls long before the bodies see each other.
During their splendor dating and Maria unapologetically persisting in her work as a prostitute, she discovers a new form of pleasure; Masochism. She meets a man called Terence, a client and a Music executive career wise. He, like all sexually weird men, knew much about pain and pleasure and the history of deriving sexual heights from inflicting pain on your partner.
In their only encounter, Terence employed both whipping, supplication, humiliation and spanking, a combination of which gave her an orgasm she has never experienced.

Extract; She saw him place the end of the whip handle against her vagina. He rubbed it up and down, and when it touched her clitoris, she lost all control …. But suddenly she had the orgasm which, in all those months, dozens, no, hundreds of men had failed to give her.
This experience threatened to invalidate her love to Ralf and his to hers. Maria, almost became a convert to masochism. Pain and pleasure proved addictive and she wanted that experience again. From her diary:
Extract: When I experienced humiliation and total submission, I was free. … I was a bit frightened by the pain, but it wasn’t as bad as the humiliation, and it was just a pretext. When I had my first orgasm in many months, despite all, the many men I’ve been with and many different things they’ve done with my body, I felt – is this possible? – closer to God.
When Ralf discovers that masochism is threatening to take away the woman he loves, what does he do next? How does this couple navigate; Prostitution, Pain, Pleasure, their ethereal love and the discovery of the true meaning of sex? Because, neither prostitution or the 11 minutes that the physical sexual activity lasts can be termed as sex!
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It is only fair that the woman in this review does the ending paragraph, because anyway these details were revealed to many but ladies understood best … so here goes nothing … here goes her mind …

In conclusion, most of us are like Maria-or Helga. So, unsatisfied, so clueless yet always yearning for something no words can explain. But we aren’t courageous enough to talk about it or to admit it amongst ourselves. So, I would recommend everyone to read this book, patiently and honestly. Do not overthink much into it, just let that which you struggle to push to the back of your mind take precedent.

 FUN. LEARN.SHARE

Wacera Kieha

Wacera Kieha is a Lifestyle Content Creator based in Nairobi, Kenya.

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