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Learning to Lose

Learning to Lose

5.0 1
by David Trueba, Mara Faye Lethem

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It is Sylvia’s sixteenth birthday, and her life as an adult is about to begin—not with the party she had been planning, but with a car accident and a broken leg. Behind the wheel is a talented young soccer player, just arrived from Buenos Aires and set for stardom on and off the field. As their destinies collide and a young romance is set in motion,


It is Sylvia’s sixteenth birthday, and her life as an adult is about to begin—not with the party she had been planning, but with a car accident and a broken leg. Behind the wheel is a talented young soccer player, just arrived from Buenos Aires and set for stardom on and off the field. As their destinies collide and a young romance is set in motion, across town, Sylvia’s father and grandfather are finding their own lives suddenly derailed by a violent murder and a secret affair with a prostitute.
Set against the maze of Madrid’s congested and contested streets, Learning to Lose follows these four individuals as they swerve off course in unexpected directions. Each of them is dodging guilt and the fear of failure, but their shared search for happiness, love, purity, redemption, and, above all, a way to survive, forms a taut narrative web that binds the characters together.
From one of Spain’s most celebrated contemporary writers, Learning to Lose is a lucid and gripping view into the complexities of lives overturned and into the capriciousness of modern life, with its intoxicating highs and devastating lows.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“…Trueba scores with his story about the need people have to connect to others, whether through sports, love or money.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer

“One part Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia, one part Paul Haggis' Crash, the rest is all David Trueba, modern day Madrid, and a narrative that pulsates with longing, lust and simmering rage. Don't dare pick it up if you have plans for the weekend, or for the rest of the day for that matter. It's that good. I was casting the adaptation in my mind as I tore through it. Vivid, real and raw, the novel is at once unsparing and entirely humane. Simply masterful.”—Joe McGinniss, Jr., author of The Delivery Man
Learning to Lose is complex, powerful, surprising and most of all smart. David Trueba is the real thing. I had a lot of work on my desk and it is still on my desk. I have however read Mr. Trueba's novel. Enough said.”—Percival Everett, author of I Am Not Sidney Poitier

Kirkus Reviews
Or, the callecita of crossed destinies-a moody novel of contemporary mores and amours across the water in Spain. In recent years Spanish novelist Arturo Perez-Reverte has written several intellectual mysteries set in Spanish cities, all populated by men and women who smoke too much, drink too much, never sleep, and ponder the meaning of it all. Trueba, a screenwriter and director, imports a slightly cleaner-living crew of characters from the provinces of South America and mixes them up with native Spaniards who live slightly more healthful lives, but some of whom wind up dead all the same. One, very nearly, is young Sylvia, who, at the tender age of 16, gets mowed down by a car driven by soccer star Ariel, who could easily have gotten away with hit-and-run: "The accident would have been completely different if he weren't a celebrity. He had been drinking, he was driving fast, it would be easy for the press to vent their anger on him, for it to get him into real trouble." But Ariel, a gallant from Argentina, isn't like that, and he faces up to Sylvia in a fumbling effort to secure forgiveness. Things get complicated-and steamy, with the understanding that the age of consent in Spain is likely lower than that in, say, Schenectady. Ariel goes back to the soccer pitch, while Sylvia's world, once a place of comparative innocence, gets even more complicated, given that her father has just killed a man-"a man who had been, for several years, his best friend." Shades of Meursault! Trueba's story turns pensive and existential, but it's also documentary, a chronicle of the lives of young people who, like kids everywhere, experiment sexually, smoke a little pot, lie to parents as their parents lied to their parents before them, and lust after pop-culture heroes. At turns the novel resembles Stieg Larsson's Lisbeth Salander trilogy, albeit absent the constant mayhem, with its young heroine adrift in a world that offers few reasons to be trustful, and plenty to be otherwise. An elegantly written, well-thought-through coming-of-age novel, with the requisite furtive embraces, broken hearts and missed signals.

Product Details

Other Press, LLC
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.70(d)

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Read an Excerpt

Aurora broke her hip in a completely unspectacular way. Getting out of the bathtub, she lifted her leg over the edge and suddenly heard a small crunch. She felt a slight shiver and her legs turned rubbery. She fell slowly, with time to brush the tips of her fingers along the wall tiles and prepare for the impact. Her elbow hit the fixtures causing a cold pain and a second later she was lying down, naked and overcome, on the still-damp bottom of the bathtub. Papá, she wanted to shout, but her voice came out weak. She tried to raise her voice, but the best she could do was emit a repetitive, well spaced out lament.
The murmur reaches the little back room, where Leandro is reading the newspaper. His first reaction is to think that his wife is calling him for another one of her ridiculous requests, for him to get down a jar of spices that’s on too high a shelf, to ask him something silly. So he answers with an apathetic what?
that gets no reply. He leisurely closes the newspaper and stands up. Later he will be ashamed of the irritation he feels at having to stop reading. It’s always the same, he sits down to read and she talks to him over the radio or the ringing telephone. Or the doorbell sounds and she asks, can you get it? when he already has the intercom receiver in his hand. He goes down the hallway until he identifies where the monotonous call is coming from. There is no urgency in
Aurora’s voice. Perhaps fatalism. When he opens the bathroom door and finds his fallen wife he thinks that she’s sick, dizzy. He looks for blood, vomit, but all he sees is the white of the bathtub and her naked skin like a glaze.

Meet the Author

David Trueba was born in Madrid in 1969 and has been successful both as a novelist and as a screenwriter. La buena vida was his widely acclaimed debut as a film director and was followed by Obra maestra, Soldados de Salamina, Bienvenido a casa, and La silla de Fernando. He is the author of two previous novels, Cuatro amigos and Abierto toda la noche. Learning to Lose won the Critics Award in 2009 and marks Trueba’s English-language debut.

Mara Faye Lethem is the translator of Spanish and Catalan authors such as
Albert Sánchez Piñol, Juan Marsé, Javier Calvo, Jorge Semprún, and Pablo DeSantis. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, she has lived in Barcelona since 2003.

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Learning to Lose 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
MikePoe More than 1 year ago
Very poetic and gritty. Reads like a love letter