Sunday, May 22, 2011

Aristophanes and Eleven Minutes


If you like Paulo Coelho and is quite familiar with most of his works, then it will be very easy for you to say that his novel Eleven Minutes comes as a unique story. First of all, Coelho apologizes in the preface saying that the theme of the book might be too "harsh, difficult and shocking". The book talks about sex, true love and passion but through the eyes of a young prostitute named Maria. We follow her journey in looking for true love even in the context of her unusual profession. The title actually is based on her observation that it only takes on average eleven minutes for the whole sex act to transpire.

There are many interesting moments in the book, but one of these that I loved is when Ralf, one of Maria's lovers, explains why one person always seems to seek the love of another, seeking a sense of fulfillment and oneness:

"According to him [Plato], at the beginning of creation, men and women were not as they are now; there was just one being, who was rather short, with a body and a neck, but his head had two faces, looking in different directions. It was as if two creatures had been glued back to back, with two sets of sex organs, four legs and four arms.

"The Greek gods, however, were jealous, because this creature with four arms work harder; with its two faces, it was always vigilant and could not be taken by surprise; and its four legs meant that it could stand or walk for long periods at a time without tiring. Even more dangerous was the fact that the creature had two different sets of sex organs and so needed no one else in order to continue reproducing.

"Zeus, the supreme lord of Olympus, said: 'I have a plan to make these mortals lose some of their strength.'

"And he cut the creature in two with a lightning bolt, thus creating man and woman. This greatly increased the population of the world, and, at the same time, disoriented and weakened its inhabitants, because now they had to search for their lost half and embrace it and, in that embrace, regain their former strength, their ability to avoid betrayal and the stamina to walk for long periods of time and to withstand hard work. That embrace in which the two bodies re-fuse to become one again is what we call sex."

- Ralf Hart (from Paulo Coelho's Eleven Minutes)

This is actually derived from Aristophanes' Speech in Plato's Symposium where various philosophers debate about the nature of Love and human interaction. Here is a video featuring the whole speech.

The art I made above features the mythical creature (the proto-man) rendered in a more human (rather than the egg shaped creature in the animation) approach. After I drew this (initially in my Monologue notebook), I realized how it serves as a reversal of an earlier Moleskine spread I made. Thus, I went along with the reversal, using colors similar to the earlier version.


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