Eleven Minutes by Paulo Coelho
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.
For the first time ever, I have finished a Coelho novel with an immense feeling of pleasure. This has nothing to do with his wise words, his quotable passages, nor his life advice. I'm pleased due to the fact that I have now finished every Coelho book I have ever purchased as a young, foolish, literature fan, hellbent on the idea of experiencing every highly recommended author. If I'm ever asked what advice I'd give to my younger self, it would be "don't buy those fucking Coelho books."
Once again, he drones on in a grandiose fashion, basking in his glowing opinion of his own pretentious spiritual perceptions. Once again, he believes himself to be on a far higher intellectual plane than his readers, making metaphorical points and then placing metaphorical neon signs around them just to make sure we understood.
Maria leaves Brazil and travels to Switzerland to be a dancer, after meeting a persuasive agent in Rio de Janeiro. She becomes a prostitute purely on a whim, and Coelho's justification of this is completely dire and unbelievable. This is not real life. Maria is the dullest, weakest character yet in the Coelho novels I've read (this really is saying something); her boldly highlighted lack of education and sense of purpose hardly support her 'clever' philosophical musings given to us in her utterly boring diary entries at the end of each chapter. I came to dread coming to those italic passages, filled with apathy over what pathetic conclusions she was going to come to next. It could not have been clearer these were simply Coelho's thoughts, not Maria's.
His thoughts on sex are laughable. He describes the female form and how pleasure can be given to it as though he were a woman himself. Then he has Maria standing in the middle of the street and experiencing orgasm through simply being overwhelmed by life, and her surroundings. If that ever happened outwith the stupid world of Coelho, I'm sure women would have told you all about it before now.
Again, one of my main arguments against Coelho is his portrayal of women. Yes, Maria was a weak character, but he also characterised her as submissive, and typically only looking for one thing from life - a husband. From practically the beginning of the novel, Maria is desperately seeking the love of her life, and Coelho also insinuates frequently that all women are doing the very same thing. I unfortunately, couldn't relate; the only thing I want from life is a puppy. Luckily, as with all Coelho novels, the sensitive worldly dude comes and saves her from herself. How poetic, how fairytale, how utterly disgusting. The final scene was so diabolically sickening that I don't feel I want to comment on it.
Similar to Veronika Decides to Die, where Coelho simply could not help but make a cameo appearance, he makes blatant reference to The Alchemist here, displaying a plaque in Geneva which points out the Road to Santiago. When Maria questions what this plaque refers to, we're treated to the meagre story of the dull little shepherd. The reason for this isn't clear, and I can only assume the reference was included as some sort of act of pride. Pathetic.
The good news is, it's now over for me. No more Coelho. If any of my enemies would like to read these novels, I threw them out of the car window halfway down Millheugh Brae; you'll find them. Friends need only walk a wee bit further and I'll let you borrow something more intellectual and stimulating, such as Enid Blyton.