Paulsy From Rio after convincing her family and

                                                                                                                                   Paulsy Diana P


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Chapter 2

novel  “Eleven  minutes” 
breaks  the  traditional 
marginalization  and  taboos 
associated  with women.  Sex 
and  Prostitution  are 
the  words   which 
are  mostly  looked 
down  by  our 
society.  People  were 
not  so  reluctant 
to  discuss  their 
sexual  issues  or 
desires  in public. But,  the 
Brazilian  icon Paulo  Coelho 
seemingly  follows  a 
bildungsroman  narrative   where 
the  protagonist  must 
undergo  many  hardships 
and  gradually  achieves 
self-realization  and    spiritual 
enhancement  in  life. 
This  research  focuses 
on  Latin  American 
society  and  how 
women  has  to 
depend  upon  men. Women 
were  not  given any 
chance  to  speak on 
their  sexuality it  was 
man  who  decides 
everything  for  her. 
Traditionally,  prostitution  was 
one  of  the 
earliest  professions  in  the  world. 
Even  the  Holy 
Bible  records  lives 
of  prostitutes.  Wolf 
cites  examples of  prostitutes 
lived  in  Sumer and 
Babylon  in  temples. 
These  young  women 
helped  the  temple 
with  sacred  prostitution. 
This  was  practiced 
in  India  as 
well  as  Egypt. 
Being  a  prostitute,  does  not
 mean,  that  one
 would  want   to
 be  one.  Legal  theorist
 and  Social  Historical 
writer  “Lawrence M. Friedman”,  in  his  work  The  Horizontal
 Society,  directs  us  to  the  very  crux  of
issue “That  tension  between  choice  and
 illusion,  between  imposed  definitions  and  individual
 interrogations  of  them,
 and  between,  old  formulae  and  new
 responsibilities”  (Hall 2). 

                    The  novel   Eleven 
minutes  mirrors  real 
life  situation  of 
many  women  who 
really  tries  to 
come  up  in life. 
Some  become  shining 
stars  and  others 
tend  to  go 
with  the  flow, 
willingly  surrendering  themselves 
to  sexual  exploitation .  Paulo 
Coelho  breaks  such 
stereotyping  and  he 
gives  a  positive 
image  to  the 
prostitutes  through  his 
heroine  “Maria”.  This 
novel   is  about 
a  young  Brazilian 
woman  called  “Maria”. 
The  protagonist  belongs 
to  a village  in 
western  Brazil. She always  dreams 
of  fame,  money 
and  a  fairy 
tale  loving  prince 
who  would  come and 
have  a  family 
with  her.  Coelho 
shows more  light  on 
her  transition  rather 
than  the  love part 
in  the  novel. 
This novel  proves  to 
be  a  female 
Odyssey  of  self-realization.  Maria’s 
childhood  love  which 
left her  heartbroken  gives 
her  an   opinion 
that  love  is 
the  only  worst 
painful  thing  in 
the  world  that 
can  leave  anyone 
in  despair.  She  begins
 to  believe  in  the   idea
that  “Love  is  a
terrible  thing   that  will  make you  suffer.” 
In  pursuit  of 
better  fortune  she 
moves  to  Geneva 
From  Rio  after 
convincing  her  family 
and  friends.  But 
from  Maria’s  diary 
what  inside  her 
mind   was  going 
on  could  be 

      “Everything  tells 
me  that  am 
about  to  make 
wrong  decision,  but 
making  mistakes  is  just 
a  part  of 
life.  What  does 
the  world  want 
of  me?  Does 
it  want  me 
to  take  no 
risks   to  go 
back where  I  came 
from  because  I 
didn’t  have  the  courage  to 
say  ‘yes’  to 
life?”  (Coelho  25-26).

Her  daring 
attitude  makes  her 
to  decide  and 
go  for  what 
she  really  wanted 
to  be   and 
finally  she  moves 
to  Switzerland.  After 
landing  in  Switzerland 
she  finds  that 
reality   is  harder 
than  what  she 
has  expected.  She 
started  working   as bar 
dancer  along  with 
another  young  women 
called  Vivian  from 

“There  are 
six  of  us, 
and  not  one 
of  us  is 
happy  and  none 
of  us  knows 
what  we’re  doing 
here.  The  customers 
drink  and  applaud, 
blow  kisses  and 
privately  make  obscene 
gestures,  but  that’s 
as  far  it 
goes.”  (Coelho , 39)

A  bitter 
fight with  her  manager 
costs  her  to 
quit  from  the 
job  and  to 
seek  further  for 
a  better  fortune, 
but  she  ends 
up  working  as 

“I’m  not 
the  only  one, 
even   though  my 
fate  put  me 
outside  the  law 
and  outside  society. 
In  the  search 
for  happiness,  however 
we  are  all 
equal:  none  of 
us  is  happy- 
not  the  banker/musician,  the 
dentist/writer,  the  checkout 
girl/actress,  or  the 
house  wife/model.”  (Eleven minutes,  58)

She  slowly 
gains  name   and 
fame  in  her 
new  found  profession.  
She  becomes  popular 
among  her  customers 
and  being  envied 
by  her  colleagues. 
Yet,  she  could 
feel  some  emptiness in 
her  life.  She 
develops  a   personal 
fascination  about  sex, 
but  her  meeting 
with  a  handsome,  
young  painter  and  a
“special  client”  called 
Ralf  Hart  puts 
her  in  a 
journey  of  self-discovery.  Paulo 
Coelho  breaks  the 
stereotyping  of  maleness 
and  femaleness  and 
tries  to  explore  
the  terrain  of 
humanity  in   desire 
or  desire  in humanity. 
In  fact,  he  is
not  looking  at 
the  prostitutes  as 
victims  instead  he 
celebrates  them  and 
giving  them  a 
new  molded  feminine 
identity.  However,  such 
an  entry  into 
the  forbidden,  was 
not  made,  without 
the  secret  wish 
of  attaining  that 
emotional  fulfillment,  which 
had  eluded  her 
all  along.  Yet, 
the  motivation  for 
having  started  it 
all,  was  very 

dear,  its  better 
to  be unhappy  with 
a  rich  man 
more  than  happy 
with  a  poor 
man,  and  over  there  you’ll   have
far  more  chances  of  becoming
 an  unhappy  rich  woman.
 Besides,  if  it  doesn’t  work  out,
 you  can  just  get  on  the  bus
and come  home”(EM 32). 

This  is  what
Maria’s  mother  had  advised
 her and  this  idea   lays
the  foundation for  her confidence.  She 
begins  her career by  accidently 
sleeping  with  an Arab 
man  who  offers 
her Thousand  Francs,  where 
she  pretends  to 
get  orgasm  which  didn’t
even  occur to her.  Coelho 
here gives  a  contrast 
image  of  Maria 
who  once  dreamt  of 
meeting  a  charming 
prince  and getting  married  
to  him  and  having
 a  beautiful  family. Now 
she could  feel that  she is 
running  her own  risks 
and she  find  herself 
from  an innocent  Princess 
to  whore.  The 
character  Maria  was 
framed after  Coelho  had 
encounter  with  real 
sex  workers  which makes 
his  narrative  strong 
enough to  voice  for 
the  silent  voices 
of  marginalized  women 
in  the  patriarchal 
society.  Writing   the 
novel in  third  person 
view  he  writes 
through them  instead  of 
writing  about  them.  Coelho
also  traces  the 
history  of  prostitutes 
and  celebrates  them. Coelho emphasizes and  depicts 
how  women  worked by 
serving  their  body. 
Coelho  uses  Prostitution 
as  a choice  for 
women  to  choose, 
and  his  character 
Maria  also  willingly surrenders  herself 
to  prostitution.

 “Some ended up ruling nations, as Messalina
did in Rome; others become legendary figures, like Madame du Barry; still
others chase after adventure and misfortune, like the spy, Mata Hari. But the
majority have their moment of glory” (Coelho 202)

Though Maria  is 
little  hesitant  in 
the  beginning  for 
this  profession  she 
later  develops  a 
fascination  along  with 
respect  for  this 
profession.  Prostitution in  the 
ancient  times  was 
morally  justifiable but  in 
the  modern  times Prostitution  resulted 
having  a  marginalized  group 
of  sex  workers 
suffering  prejudice.  But  Coelho
on the  drastic  change 
the  character  undergoes 
that  is  the 
metamorphosis  of  the  protagonist  after  her  encounter 
with Hart.  This transition  included 
the  stark  realities 
of  life,  her 
choices,  absurd  desires 
and  the  entry 
of  the  charming 
Prince  who  teaches 
her  the  real meaning 
of  being  a 
woman  and  culturally frees  her 
from  her   bondage. 
Her  denied  pleasure instead  of 
blindly  using  her 
which  ultimately  gained 
her  to  attain orgasm.

 “You don’t become a woman through sex.
Ideally, you become a person first, and then you become a sexual person” (Wolf

After  completely 
dragging  herself  into  prostitution,  she  develops  a  sexual
 awakening. Being  the  favorite  of 
her  customers  she 
comes  to understand  that  “sex
has come to be used as some kind of drug: in order to escape reality, to forget
about problems, to relax and like all drugs, this is a harmful and destructive
practice” (EM 175).  Maria  was once 
the  innocent  girl 
believing  that there would  be 
a  prince  who  would  come 
and  take  her 
and  now  she 
pretends  to be  impressed 
by  the  power 
and  glory  of 
the  young  man.  Eleven Minutes reflects  the 
duality  and  the 
hypocrisy  of  the 
modern  society.  The 
intertwined  relationship  between 
Sacred  sex  and 
prostitution  has  been  clearly  demonstrated 
by Simone de  Beauvoir  in 
her  book  The  Second Sex. 
She  believes  that 
marriage  is  something 
that  insists  chastity 
on  women however  it 
allows  men  to 
freely  find  another 
extra  affairs. The  society 
assigns  the  virtuous 
women  to  be 
in  a  family, 
have  children  and 
bring  them  up 
whereas  prostitutes  are 
merely  meant  as 
objects  of  sexual  pleasure 
serving  men  of 
desire.  They  are 
mostly  subjected  to 
many  social  prejudices 
but  surprisingly  Coelho 
is  seeing  them 
as  superior  because 
they  enjoy  the 
freedom  which  they 
want  to  have 
in  their  life.  It  the 
freedom  of  the 
Protagonist  Maria  to 
choose  to  be 
sex  worker  and 
it  was  her 
freedom  to  attain metamorphosis. 

being  an  empowered 
character  finds  the 
real  freedom  of 
choice  when  she 
meets  Ralf  Hart. This 
is  the  most 
liberating  and enlightening  part  
of   her  life.  Hart  here 
is  given as  a 
positive  character  unlike 
other  men  he finds 
an  inner  light 
in  Maria  beyond 
her  body  and 
sex.  Though  he 
had  failed  in 
his  marital  relationship 
he  was  assigned 
to  help  Maria 
through  attaining  a 
spiritual  transformation. Deconstructing
typical  portrayal   of 
male  savior  Coelho 
states  Hart  to 
be  a  man  uninterested
sex  but  awakens 
the  gloomed soul  of 
Maria.  Through  this 
description  he  mutually 
reward  his readers  and 
making  them clear  with 
the  point  that 
they  need  each other 
equally.  Hart  who 
rekindles  the  the 
spark of  love  in  her 
teaches  the  pursuit 
of  sacred sex.  Their  sexual 
encounters  an  be 
narrowed  down  to 
the  process of  sacred 
sex. Maria  knew  “having 
sex  is  about 
eleven  minutes”(EM 88). The  personified 
and  preserved  innocence 
like every other good  women  made 
her  realize  the 
connection  of  souls 
before  bodies  getting 

As a straight  forward 
 woman, Maria’s  desires 
subjected   the stable paradox  of a fused ethic of Desire and  Difference. As Simone De Beauvoir points out:
“Eroticism is a movement towards the Other, this is its essential character:
but in the deep intimacy of the couple, husband and wife, become for one
another the ‘Same’; no exchange is any longer possible between them” (Beauvoir
446).  The  following 
conversation  between  Hart 
and  Maria  shows 
sex  not  as 
an  element  of 
sex  but  as  a  token 
of  love  and 
respect  for  each other

can’t buy  your  love  but  you
 did  tell  me
 that you  knew everything  about  sex.
Teach  me then or  teach  me
 something  about  Brazil.  Anything  just as   long as I can be  with you.”

 Maria:  “I only  know  two places   in my own  country: The town I was born in and Rio   de Janerio. As for sex, I don’t  think  I
can  teach you anything. I am  nearly  twenty  three, you’re about  six years  older, but  I know  you’ve lived  life  very  intensely. I  know  men
who pay me to do  what they  want, not what  I want.”  “I’ve done  everything  a man could dream of doing with  one,  two,
 even three  women  at
   the same  time. And 
 I don’t  think   I
learned very much.”  “Do  you want  me as a  professional?”  “I want  you, however,  you want  to be wanted.” (EM 128)  This 
conversation  gives  a feeling 
where  a  whore 
is  considered  as 
a  person  and 
someone  responds  to the 
call of  a  woman’s 

Beauvoir feels that
such “full development requires that –in love, affection, sensualitywomen
succeed in overcoming her passivity and in establishing a relation of
reciprocity with her partner.” (Beauvoir 401). The ‘battle of the sexes’, can
easily be solved: If he lusts after her flesh while recognizing her freedom,
she feels herself to be the essential, her integrity remains unimpaired the
while she makes herself object…under such conditions the lovers can enjoy
common pleasure. Under a concrete and carnal form there is mutual recognition
of the Ego and of the Other in the keenest awareness of the Other and of the
Ego. Some women say that they feel the masculine sex organ in them to be a part
of their own bodies; some men feel that they are the woman that penetrate.
These are evidently inexact expressions, for the dimension, the relation of the
Other still exists; but the fact is that alterity has no longer a hostile
implication, and indeed the sense of the union of really separate bodies is
what gives its emotional character to the sexual act; and it is the more
overwhelming as the two beings, who together in passion deny and assert their
boundaries are similar and unlike. (Beauvoir 401)


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