Once upon a time there was a prostitute called Maria. The novel Eleven Minutes is about a young adult named Maria who finds herself through travelling around Europe in order to achieve her dreams to become famous. Although this was not what she achieved she found love even after she was certain she will never find true love. Maria experiences what she thinks love is at a very young age. From the age eleven she fell in love with her neighbour and hated him when he didn’t love her back, she then had many boyfriends and experienced the depths of relationships until she decided she didn’t need a boy and promised to never fall in love again. At the age nineteen she decided she wanted to pursue her dream and persuaded her boss for a week holiday.
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After travelling to Rio de Janeiro she met a Swiss man who offers her work as a Samba dancer in a nightclub in Geneva. Realising dancing was not her passion, she quit the job and searched for work as a model but found herself being offered money for one night with an Arab man. This night led her to the brothel, Copacabana in Rue de Berne where she began work as a prostitute as she enjoyed the easy money and the way she got it. Here she worked many nights but only befriended one colleague, Nyah, as many other women saw her as a threat to their profession. The dehumanizing profession caused her to “shut out” her body and mind to any connection with love and her life now revolved around something that took eleven minutes which was the time Maria found that was actually spent having sex. As Maria only worked at night, she spent her days at the library, befriending the librarian and taking out books on many different subjects such as how to learn French, books about sex and farm management. She also explored the city which led her to the “Road to Santiago” where she meets a Swiss painter, Ralf Hart. Hart as a painter, loved her “light” that she gave off and asked if he could draw a portrait of her. This encounter caused Maria’s body and soul to become reintegrated because of the love and passion she shared with him although they first argue and he disrespects her profession.
One particular client however, enabled her to experience pain yet reach a sense of pleasure from sex known as sadomasochism. This brought her to realise that pain and pleasure can relate. Although she experienced this, she didn’t tell Ralf Hart and one day he introduced her to a different sense of pain that helped her to “travel” beyond any other pleasures. After several meetings with Ralf Hart, often at his house they shared something she didn’t share with any other clients. She fell hopelessly in love with him as he brought her to rekindle her soul as it was only destroyed from her profession. Maria then felt she needed to leave Rue de Berne because of her feelings and travel home to her family regardless of the fact that if she worked for just six months longer, she could have given her family everything they desire. She then buys a ticket to Brazil, disappointed that she hadn’t filled her suitcases with souvenirs as she has wished. Before travelling back home she wanders around the city grasping the concepts, saying goodbye to those she had grown close to. During this time, the reader begins to learn about the librarian as Maria listens to what she has to say after she has read many books about sex after ordering them for the library. The librarian explains her life to Maria and although Maria does not know what to say, she simply listens and allows the librarian to express herself. However, Maria does ask if she had ever had an affair and although she did, she never told this to Maria.
In the evening saw Ralf for the last time, or at least what she thought would be the last time as the love they experienced with each other brings them closer than past relationships. Ralf Hart becomes the hopeless romantic and meets Maria in the airport and the “words ‘The End’ appear on the cinema screen.”
This novel is written in third person singular with an omniscient style but however shifts to first person singular when Maria writes in her diary; “She grew prettier and prettier, and her sad, mysterious ways brought her many suitors.” and “Everything tells me that I am about to make a wrong decision, but making mistakes is just a part of life. What does the world want of me?” This therefore indicates that there is an epistdary style to the novel as Maria’s thoughts are shared through diary entries. The pronouns ‘he’ and ‘she’ are frequently used and characters are continuously addressed by their names. The novel is also written with an intrusive style; “But if, one day, someone should decide to tell her story, she would ask them to begin it with just as all the fairy tales begin: Once upon a time.”
Maria: is an independent, selfless young lady who dreams of success which she will go out of her way to achieve. This is shown through her determination and even during her self-destroying profession she longs to achieve her dream she had since she was a little girl even though this is achieved through an adventure which causes her to change from being the innocent young girl she was. Maria is caring woman, this characteristic is portrayed through her nights with many clients as she not only gives them sexual pleasure but she also relieves them of their problems by discussing their life problems and situations. She is also a friendly lady as although Ralf Hart first offends her profession she still continues to talk and resolve the tension which then leads to a friendship and then a relationship. Her friendliness is also shown through her relationship between the librarian and her work colleagues although they see her as a threat. Maria is also devoting as she spends the money she personally earned on her family in order for her family to succeed in life by buying a farm for her family.
Language & Diction
Eleven Minutes is a descriptive novel that uses informal language often including language commonly used amongst many people. There are many conversations in the novel between the characters, especially dialect between Maria and her sexual clients as well as between herself and Ralf Hart and Maria and the librarian. Techniques of creative writing are used such as personification; “Geneva would just be the face of a man she loved and whom had loved her.” There are also quite a few rhetorical questions which emphasize the situation and allow the reader to become involved with the situation in the novel. Several long sentences are used to describe feelings or objects; “She was beginning to realise that after long months of self-control, the pressure, the earthquake, the volcano of her soul was showing signs that it was about to erupt, and the moment that this happened, she would have no way of controlling her feelings.” Short sentences are also used to make an impact and emphasize the meaning, for instance; “She was terrified.”
The imagery is evident throughout the novel because all stimuli are aroused. Tactile imagery is evident when Maria sleeps with many different men because of her profession. The novel is very descriptive when Maria and Ralf Hart discuss their sexual relationships and when he seeks her as a customer; “Maria felt Ralf’s hand on her waist, his cheek pressed to hers and the music – Thank God – was too loud for them to talk.” This description of Ralf and Maria’s encounter therefore links to auditory imagery as one can imagine the sound of the music around them. There is a sense of smell when Ralf caresses Maria’s face with his fingers; “she can smell just a hint of ink on them, a smell that will stay there forever, even if he washes his handsâ€¦” Visual imagery is foreseen throughout the novel when Maria enters the church before leaving back to Brazil. The novel explains traditions of a church; “splendid stained-glass windows” and “empty cross; she was confronted not by an instrument of torture, by the bloodied body of a dying man, but by a symbol of resurrectionâ€¦” Taste imagery is evident when Maria has experience with a variety of foods, in Brazil she can only afford sandwiches and occasionally restaurants however, in Switzerland she eats more extravagantly and dines at more expensive restaurants after she is employed at The Copacabana.
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The theme of discovery, pain and loneliness is evident throughout the novel as Maria had to experience pain throughout her life in order to discover her true self. Loneliness is shown through the novel as Maria was lonely and her soul and mind was lost in order for her to continue with her difficult career choice. Discovery also relates to this as she discovered herself from having made love with Ralf Hart and she began to feel much happier and realise that she had found “love” and that her soul was rejuvenated. The theme of sexual relations is represented deeply throughout the novel as Maria is a prostitute and has many sexual relationships throughout the novel because of this. Sex in the novel is a very dominant theme especially when Ralf Hart helps Maria to discover that sex is sacred and goes beyond ones soul. This theme may link to love and romance as Maria falls in love with Ralf Hart and they begin a relationship together after she flies home from Switzerland to Brazil.
This novel has various different settings which all motivate the novel in various ways. Whilst Maria is a young girl, the novel is set in Brazil in a secluded town. At nineteen she travels to Rio de Janeiro, a famous city for its carnival celebrations and many dances. These two scenes encourage the novel because as a young girl her parents are poor and as she begins to travel she wants to earn a decent salary to be able to support her family. As a young girl Maria also dreams to have the “typical lifestyle” and a “glittery life” and by moving from a secluded area to a populated town, Maria’s dream is truly reflected. The novel then takes the reader to Geneva in Switzerland then to Rue de Berne, down town from Geneva where sadly she becomes a prostitute but meets Ralf Hart.
The genre of Eleven Minutes is romance because of the relationships between Maria and her clients. Although Maria didn’t fall in love with her many clients, she fell in love with a man who had occasionally entered The Copacabana and then paid for a night with her. The two endured sex and love and experienced what is called “sacred sex” in the novel. The genre could also be true life drama as the story line is based on a person’s life but is altered in ways so that it isn’t simply a biography. I say this because Maria experiences prostitution that is portrayed through everyday life although it is often not spoken about.
Aspects I liked
I enjoyed the fact that Maria finally realised that prostitution was not the way she should live her life and that although after another year she would have earned enough money to pursue her lifelong dreams and give her parents the life they had dreamed of, she left Geneva in order to live her life a better way. The novel also helped me to gain insight that there is a different side of earning a living and that prostitution is a settlement that young women make. I also enjoyed the fact that Ralf Hart went through effort in order to please Maria at the airport. It was the typical tender moment that every hopeless romantic will love. Despite this, I didn’t enjoy that the novel ending in this way as I felt that the ending was a cliché in comparison to the novel. I feel that the reader is able to imagine the ending before actually reading it which spoils the novel as it involves deep discussion about prostitution but then changes to a typical romance.
I would recommend this novel to any high school child that is sophisticated and mature to read about sexual relationships and prostitution. The novel is very open regarding the subjects sex and love and defines that sex without love is of no use. Saying this, I would specifically recommend this novel to teenage girls over the age of 17 because the theme, prostitution can be offensive to those who do not have an open mind. The novel discusses prostitution which is not an everyday topic although it can be a part of everyday life for certain people and it involves deep descriptions about sex and the discovery of sex in different ways. I would also recommend this novel to a woman who feels that they were once just a “sexual object” for men as the novel suggests female sexuality although it is explained through prostitution.
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