Maria and sex

in my book “Eleven Minutes”

The men she had met since she arrived in Geneva always did everything they could to appear confident, as if they were in perfect control of the world and of their own lives; Maria, however, could see in their eyes that they were afraid of their wife, the feeling of panic that they might not be able to get an erection, that they might not seem manly enough even to the ordinary prostitute whom they were paying for her services. If they went to a shop and didn’t like the shoes they had bought, they would be quite prepared to go back, receipt in hand, and demand a refund. And yet, even though they were paying for some female company, if they didn’t manage to get an erection, they would be too ashamed ever to go back to the same club again because they would assume that all the other women there would know.

‘I’m the one who should feel ashamed for being unable to arouse them, but, no, they always blame themselves.’

To avoid such embarrassments, Maria always tried to put men at their ease, and if someone seemed drunker or more fragile than usual, she would avoid full sex and concentrate instead on caresses and masturbation, which always seemed to please them immensely, absurd though this might seem, since they could perfectly well masturbate on their own.
She had to make sure that they didn’t feel ashamed. These men, so powerful and arrogant at work, constantly having to deal with employees, customers, suppliers, prejudices, secrets, posturings, hypocrisy, fear and oppression, ended their day in a nightclub and they didn’t mind spending three hundred and fifty Swiss francs to stop being themselves for a night.

‘For a night? Now come on, Maria, you’re exaggerating. It’s really only forty-five minutes, and if you allow time for taking off clothes, making some phoney gesture of affection, having a bit of banal conversation and getting dressed again, the amount of time spent actually having sex is about eleven minutes.’

Eleven minutes. The world revolved around something that only took eleven minutes.

And because of those eleven minutes in any one twenty-four-hour day (assuming that they all made love to their wives every day, which is patently absurd and a complete lie) they got married, supported a family, put up with screaming kids, thought up ridiculous excuses to justify getting home late, ogled dozens, if not hundreds of other women with whom they would like to go for a walk around Lake Geneva, bought expensive clothes for themselves and even more expensive clothes for their wives, paid prostitutes to try to give them what they were missing, and thus sustained a vast industry of cosmetics, diet foods, exercise, pornography and power, and yet when they got together with other men, contrary to popular belief, they never talked about women. They talked about jobs, money and sport.

Something was very wrong with civilization, and it wasn’t the destruction of the Amazon rainforest or the ozone layer, the death of the panda, cigarettes, carcinogenic foodstuffs or prison conditions, as the newspapers would have it.

It was precisely the thing she was working with: sex.


  1. sanjay says:

    Hi maria can u tell me just one thing ?how do u measure a man who has been deprieved of his family in a flash left all alone to think on ways of life?


  2. Marie-Christine says:

    ‘Le sexe n’est pas l’amour, ce n’est qu’un territoire que l’amour s’approprie.’
    Milan Kundera

    Sex is not love, it is only a territory that love seizes.

  3. I started re-reading this book. It’s been a few years and I’ve experienced a bit more of Maria’s life in the interim. I have been married for 15 years, but not always happily (and my husband had a drinking problem) though we always had a great sex life. Still, emotionally, things were very painful between us. I went looking for others to help me stay married because, well, I believe(d) divorce was the worst possible failure I could endure. My parents had a brutal, ugly divorce when I was 2 and by the time I was 11, my mother pushed him out of my life, and I never saw him for 29 years. He was supposedly a serious alcoholic, but he always treated me and my sisters well.

    Little did I know that I’d be marrying someone with a drinking problem. Not one person I consulted on the matter was able to help me help him. Not one person suggested I go for Al-anon…or anything like that. No one knew how bad it would get. He was a good guy to them (and mostly he was, until he wasn’t).

    With divorce not an option, but many fights later, I did the only thing I could do to find happiness…and that was in the arms of other men, then I could at least alleviate some of the sadness that pervaded my existence. I don’t recommend it, but for me, it did solve a problem since my husband would not go for help. (He has now, because he got a DUI and had to).

    I know everyone seems to want a faithful kind of love between just one man and one woman. I think, for some people, broken people like me, in a difficult situation like this, this isn’t always possible. My first affair was in secret, but ten years later (still having the same problems, only 3 kids later), after a long, long discussion about what I needed that I wasn’t getting from him (emotionally), I had two more affairs with my husband’s consent. Then, it soon dawned on me that a man who could do that must really love me…even if he had serious issues in other areas. For a while, I thought for sure I was polyamorous and not even capable of monogamy, but, having had some of the experiences I have had, I realize that I can do without these other people, now that I can trust in my husband more.

    I can’t say I’m proud of my experiences and I was raised Catholic, so I had to come to terms with the ‘sin’ (and I feel relieved of any guilt), though I am glad I have learned a valuable thing about love and commitment. I want to re-read Maria’s viewpoint with my new perspective. I know I got so many things from her before. And, interestingly enough…one of my lovers was named Terence, so that was kind of an interesting synchronicity.

    One day I want to write my story full out…if nothing else than to teach my daughters a thing or two about love and marriage and how two people once deeply in love can get so far apart, but still manage to find their way back to each other…

    Love does conquer all.

    Oh, and thank you so much for Twittering one of my posts, Mr. Coelho. That was a beautiful thing.

  4. shan premasinghe says:

    there is so much to learn and unlearn in our life.
    we usually live in the bliss of ignorence.
    if you can make realize people that people live in ignorance that is great
    author does that so well.

  5. imraraavis says:

    This is my favorite of yours Paulo.
    I like the way you started the book with, “once upon a time there was a prostitute..”
    And the “closing the circle”, I ponder it, and it’s true, for me.
    And since I read eleven minutes, I don’t open the door when living if it was my first time in that that house.
    And of course, that sex is like an embrace to find our lost half.
    That and many other that I like this book.
    Also, recently I’ve read the Fifty Shades trilogy, It’s a erotic novel with BDSM, and the image of Maria walking barefoot in the rocks keeps pops into my head.

  6. Lars Berewinkel says:

    Sex can open up some space in your soul. It would be very good, if there were more people having sex in our civilisation. It produces more than 250Volt! ;)

    1. Heimo Kruschinski says:

      Thank you very much. Cool! That’s high voltage! That sounds to me after an exciting experiment. I can see a large-scale field trial. The word nipple clamp becomes a whole new dimension. Which is now open for me. :-)

      I wish you all a wonderful day

    2. Marie-Christine says:

      Your remarks reminds me of Gilbert Becaud. They used to call him Mr 10,000 volts.
      I thought he was quite right with his song ‘L’important c’est la rose’

    3. MCh says:

      en fait il faut le multiplier encore..
      on l’appelait Mr 100,000 volts
      Un vrai circuit electrique :)

  7. huma arshad says:

    When it comes to ” SEX” the society is hidebound to discuss it openly if there is some seriousness associated with it .But when it comes to jokes everybody feels elated to talk about it.Sex is no doubt a very important part of anyones life .No body is impeccable in this world ,so people do make mistakes in everday life ;but when they are not able to enjoy sex although they do not do it deliberitaly but the feel it as if they have done something very wrong ,and feel mortified”.My only advice to the people related to this topic is just be youself and be honest to describe you sex related feeling not to others but firstly to youself.”

  8. luansinamati says:

    Une pata nje histori me “11 minuta-t”. Libri me pelqeu aq shume sa ja dhashe per ta lexuar duke ja falur nje mikes time. Ajo e lexoi, e pelqeu dhe e ktheu ne librari duke e rishitur me gjysme cmimi. Ne nje moment mu duk se ne kete histori isha bere personazh i librit dhe jo vetem lexues. A eshte dikush te me thote se jam i vetmi?

  9. luansinamati says:

    I had a story to “11 minutes”. I liked the book so much has blown it read by an acquaintance has forgiven. She read it, and liked and returned to the bookstore to resell at half-price. In a moment it seemed that history was made “‹”‹in this book character and not just readers. Is someone tells me I am alone?

  10. Bob says:

    Beautiful book, awesome. The book he quotes for Maria’s diary, by ZZ “The Science of Passion” is also awesome, by Antonella ZZzara

  11. Dano says:

    Some time ago I read a book from Isabel Allende who said that when we speak of love and sex; love is the music when sex is (just) the instrument of it. I couldn’t agree more with this sentence until now. What is bothering me, is that, although it is always true that music can not be without any instrument, love can exist even without any sex. Explaining the first: if we speak of any music, there is always an instrument involved in it (simply said; when beat boxing,, we use our mouth (the instrument) to play the music). But if we speak of love, I can not agree that there should be any instrument in it (read here; sex). Isn’t it true that you can love someone without having sex with it…? I would like to add here that it’s not about our own children or family which we love because it’s natural. But recently, I’m having an affair with someone (she has had a boyfriend for more than five years now, I guess…) and we didn’t do more than just french kissing,. The only thing that I want is to be with here (so even without sex…). Is this real love? Or is this just a phase, or something like that, and should I continue this or not? So on, can love exist without sex or not? Maybe, I am just thinking romantic, but I believe love stands on the first place and sex on the second.

    1. satpal khayaal says:

      Dear Dano, You are right love does exist without sex. Sex is like a small cloud of excitement and soon after sky is clear as before. Love needs no intrument , it is there now and forever without any reason.

    2. Heimo Kruschinski says:

      You can certainly have sex without love. But if you love someone, sex is certainly one of the most wonderful ways to express this love. Is at least my opinion.

      I wish you all a wonderful day

  12. Pandora says:

    ‘There are those who seek the love of a woman to forget her, to not think about her.’ ~ Jorge Luis Borges

    ‘He consorted with prostitutes and poets…and with persons even worse.’ ~
    Jorge Luis Borges

    The reality of a high class prostitute, is quite different from the reality of maybe another:

    “Hundreds of women and children are trafficked into the UK every year. Some women are sold to ‘guardians’ or answer advertisements offering legitimate work with a wage and good working conditions. Others are tricked into paying to come to this country with promises of a better life. When they arrive they often have their passports taken from them and have limited freedom. Frequently they are intimidated and threatened, and forced to work as domestic slaves or in prostitution. The money they earn is kept by their abusers. Very often they don’t speak much English. They know very little about the UK’s legal system or their rights.

    Children are also trafficked in and around the UK. They are often sexually exploited, forced into prostitution, used in videos and photographs of abuse. Many children are used to work in factories, beg on the streets or in domestic slavery.

    These are criminal acts.”

    I despise the fact that Pope Gregory in 14 September 591 first suggested that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute, and that this was silently withdrawn by the catholic church in the 1969. It has, in my opinion, glamorised the suffering, repentant woman, who actually never committed a “sin” in the first place.

    Sex is both and exalted through Love and profane to others… beyond the five senses there exists another world, and only Love has the key and each has their own door.

    Thank you.

  13. MARIA DANIELA says:

    me necanto el libro me parecio distinto a los que nos brinda el maestro pero me parecio muy bueno atrapante “”11 minutos”

  14. Aileen says:

    This by far is my favorite book Paulo I have read it several times and I have wished my life had been written around it, there is so much to unlearn in life. As the painter slowly seduce her soul it seduce mine as well. You are brilliant and your hands are as powerful as words.

  15. Dr.athira says:

    i believe that we(defenitely me) can’t find happiness in sex if our partner is not the one we love. if i love him, having or not having an orgasm is not a serious problem for me. the prime important thing is that we share Love and passion.I like this novel very much..defenitely it inflammed many hidden thirsts of mine……

  16. Urfa Bhatti says:

    Reading this just reminded me how much I enjoyed the book the first time I read it, and then the second and the third. Were it not for the stack of things-to-do, I would actually love rereading eleven minutes all over again, over a hot cappuccino.

  17. Jemma says:

    definitely one of the best books by Paulo :) no one can word life as well as he can.

  18. maria haydee. says:

    paulo cada dia lo admiro mas. lo amo x sus palabra gracias y mil gracias. soy argentina!!!!!!!

  19. About the illustration of male-sex symbol in glass-heart
    It’s new to me.
    The miracle of life fully exposed.
    Past the symbol and the initial giggle it does look like a heart with a right and left ventricle.
    It contains the feminine and the masculine.
    It’s the fountain of life and the return to the source.
    I learn everyday.
    Thank you for that symbol.
    With love


  20. Paul Blockley says:

    Brilliant book! Very insightful. Maria’s character became a virtual guru of sex and life in general. She transformed what was a weakness into a strength & what was ugly became beautiful.

  21. Yrrah Ella Alley says:

    You inspire me so much.

  22. rosaria says:

    è meraviglioso il mio preferito…letto almeno 3 volte!stupendo!!!

  23. Sharaf says:

    “11 dakika” mucize bir kitapdir diye düÅŸünüyorum. Kenidimin de derk edemediyim özelliklerimi Paulo bu kitabta bana anlatdi. Ben kendimi Paulonun vesilesiyle anladim. Cevabini bulamadigim sorularin í§özümünü Paulonun kitaplarinda buldum. Gercekten onu í§ok seviyorum. Kadinlari bana anlatdigi ií§in. KarÅŸi cins olarak kadinlardan nasil bu kadar anlaya bilir diye hayret ediyorum zamanla. TeÅŸekkür ederim Paulo.

  24. me says:

    we are born, live and die alone…

    1. Arkel says:

      but we are connected by birth, by sex, by thoughts and actions…sharing, saving, giving, fearing. hurting, harming,…loving…choice…no choice…give, try, forgive, to lie or to tell a story?…?

    2. JustJayn says:

      We are all born of a woman – she was there all the time :) We live on Earth abounding with brothers and sisters; however, one does indeed die alone if one has not taken cognisance of the first two gifts and embraced them.

  25. klynne says:

    And what if love was considered to be a disease? Interesting book by Lauren Oliver, “Delirium.” In this book, they have found a cure for love, but at what price?

  26. Sruthy says:

    Hey fellows one questions

    Is it possible to bring out the purity of sex if the couples involved do not love each other?

    1. vipin kumar says:

      hey, it’s the purity of love that determines the purity of sex and although the hormones flowing in every human body is same it’s the strength in heart that determines the purity of love.

  27. Natasha Novínsky says:

    11 minutos por um sexo pago, é uma eternidade…11 minutos nos braí§os de quem se ama, pouco demais…Dinheiro nenhum paga o prazer indescrití­vel de fazer amor com quem realmente amamos…Mas com certeza pagar por sexo, deixa frustrada(o) muita gente, que busca algo nos braí§os de uma estranha(o) que nunca achará!!!
    Tá grá agram ort…

  28. Psalmbody says:

    Sex is great ~ true and natural enough to fill the Earth, transcendental enough to fill Earth’s folks with a certain understanding or madness LOL

    How many youth & adults lie about how much they’ve gotten or lie to get it (rape of body and/or character included)? Somewhere along the way, the wild, heated flow of energy and connection so many of us want is maligned at least once the moment’s object is otherwise familiar with that flow, has what we consider a better body or facade to fit the rest of that time’s schema, less inhibitions, more appeal, etc. Such is the insecurity of most of Maria’s men. Such is the lie and dimming of her own light in deference to the various needs of her partners. At some point, we occupy our own places on the spectrum.

    Incidentally, “11 Minutes” found me while in Europe some moments ago and is still one of a few faves of Paulo’s works thus far. P(e)ace.

  29. anonymous preferebly says:

    nothing more to say but I cried when the painter was making love to her, after the darkness she had experienced in life and after everything…that final scene made me cry. it was awesome.
    this book was referred to me by a friend who specifically told me to read only that scene and when I read that, I was aroused, but when I read the whole book and came to that scene the feeling was totally different. awesome and explicit depiction of what we men are in reality but then again, the world is relative and human is complex.

  30. Maria Nicolosi says:

    Per fare bene l’amore cioè dire fare sesso, occorrono armonia, equilibrio, voglia d’appartenersi, e molta tenerezza. Il sesso senza amore è come ballare senza musica, stringendosi al partner canticchiando nella mente una canzone che canti solo tu. Undici minuti per non sentirsi soli, undici minuti per dimenticare la tristezza, undici minuti per sperare e per credere ancora, per dimenticare una vita che non ti appartiene o che non ti piace pií¹, undici minuti sono proprio troppo poco. Se il mondo è cosí¬ vuoto e cosí¬ triste, cosí¬ sbagliato, è perchè c’è troppo poco tempo per abbandonarsi all’amore, per abbandonarsi totalmente con fiducia e tenerezza all’altro, per perdersi e per poi ritrovarsi l’uno nell’altro, per sprofondare e poi risalire, per morire e poi rinascere,. “Fare l’amore”, fare sesso con amore è un modo unico di cadere in uno spazio senza tempo ne’ luogo, da dove sollevato da ogni pena osservi dall’alto ogni cosa, intravedi orizzonti lontani, provi sensazioni mai provate, e cambia il ritmo del tuo cuore e dell’anima, puoi credere che in fondo vale la pena di vivere, di sperare, hai fiducia in te stesso e nel mondo, puoi ripartire da zero e credere d’essere nato in quell’istante, rinasci e se hai l’anima dell’artista hai voglia di fare e di creare, di credere, ringrazi Dio perchè amando un’altra persona hai dato e ricevuto la gioia nell’appartenersi. Fare l’amore è sacro, e se in fondo fare sesso originariamente era solo un modo naturale e piacevole per procreare e noi lo abbiamo dimenticato, il DNA del nostro corpo e della nostra anima non lo hanno dimenticato. Ma tanti altri sono profani, e fanno sesso senza amore, o per solitudine, o per egoismo, o per voluttí  e piacere, o solo per paura di non essere capiti ne’ amati, o perchè non amano pií¹ una vita che non gli appartiene, e se al corpo possono bastare undici minuti, sono veramente troppo poco per vincere la solitudine dell’anima.