‘Eleven Minutes’ is the story of a prostitute- Maria, a Brazilian small towner who sets out on the path of prostitution in search of adventure and money. Coelho uses Maria to write a saga of sex and love-making, explores the difference between the two and in the process questions various precincts of societal codes of morality and righteous living.<BR> Maria sets out as a cabaret dancer in Switzerland and gradually turns to prostitution by choice, rather than by compulsion. At one point she analyses her situation thus, “(was) she doing this because she needed to” or “(was) she doing it because she wanted to experience something new” or “(was) she doing it because she had nothing to lose”. She decides that none of the above was true and that “it was best to forget all about it and simply deal with whatever lay on her particular path”.<BR> Maria learns about men and sexuality through her various clients. She deliberates at various points in the book: “I have discovered why a man pays for a woman: he wants to be happy” or that “sex has come to be used as some kind of a drug: in order to escape reality, to forget about problems, to relax”. She explores sado-masochism with one of her clients and writes “when I experienced humiliation and total submission, I was free”. Her disillusionment with sexuality grows. She writes “I need to write about love- otherwise my soul won’t survive”.<BR>Finally, she does find her love in an equally disillusioned painter. Maria is left to choose between her existing life of mindless lust, the life of mundane ordinariness that awaits her back home or an odyssey of sacred sex along with her lover.
Written towards the later half of the 20th century, Coelho focuses on the various prejudices associated with love making in both the genders. He traces a brief history of such prejudices in the book but elaborates more on present day illusions about the nature of sex and love-making.
Coelho writes a language of evocative imagery- vividly describing the soul of a prostitute, her sexual encounters and her professional and personal frustrations. Coelho uses simple and direct prose to wield a very sensitive subject, converting it into a gripping drama on the quest for true love.
I was watching the popular Hindi movie ‘Devdas’ by Sanjay Leela Bansali the other day. Chandramukhi, the prostitute, exclaims at one point in the movie: ‘Kya ek tawaef ko pyar karne ka haq nehin hai?”(Does a prostitute not have the right to love?) This book by Caelho, I feel, elaborates on just that. The right to love of a prostitute and her quest for it. And such is the genius of Coelho, that he is able to trace the deepest cravings of a woman’s mind in the process.
Book Reviewed By Ashmita Saha
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