Reading guide for Eleven Minutes by Paulo Coelho

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Eleven Minutes

by Paulo Coelho

Eleven Minutes
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2004, 288 pages
    Apr 2005, 304 pages

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Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!


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

  • In what ways is Maria's process of self-discovery similar to the rites of passage all young women experience?
  • Of all the turning points in Maria's life, which was the most crucial and why?
  • 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?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Harper Perennial. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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