Learning To Lose

David Trueba

Published: 2 June 2011
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 592 pages
ISBN: 9781846272066

Translated by Mara Faye Lethem


It is the day of 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 crash. At the wheel is a talented young footballer, just arrived from Buenos Aires and set for stardom on and off the pitch. As their destinies collide, elsewhere in the city Sylvie's father and grandfather are finding their own lives suddenly derailed by a violent murder and a secret affair.

Set against the maze of Madrid's congested and contested streets, Learning to Lose follows 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 and - above all - a way to survive forms a taut narrative web that binds the characters together and holds the reader fast.

About the author

Image of David Trueba

David Trueba was born in Madrid in 1969 and is a successful novelist and scriptwriter. La buena vida was his widely acclaimed debut as a film director and was followed by four more films. He is the author of two previous novels; this is the first to be published in English. More about the author


Learning to Lose is complex, powerful, surprising and most of all smart. David Trueba is the real thing.’ Percival Everett, author of Erasure



‘A captivating novel ... Trueba's analysis of the family unit is intricate and compassionate, as the protagonists undertake explosive interactions with those around them ... allowing the reader to empathise completely. Addictive and absorbing’ Sophie Gordon

‘After Andres Iniesta's game-winning goal in the World Cup final, Spanish writer David Trueba's Learning to Lose isn't the most aptly titled novel to pick up. But soccer fans will appreciate the book, translated by Mara Faye Lethem, for its portrait of an Argentinean player beginning his professional career in Madrid. As Ariel Burano struggles to acclimatize to life in the spotlight an ocean away from his family, Trueba's novel digs under the glossy veneer of Nike and Adidas ads to unveil a sports system that has "managed to make corruption photogenic and legal".’

‘At turns the novel resembles Stieg Larsson's Lisbeth Salander trilogy ... 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’

‘David Trueba brings a cinematic pacing, a very visual sensibility and the feel of an ensemble movie to this, his third novel. And what a novel it is, translated into a sensual and poetic English by Mara Faye Lethem ... Lush, intricate and rewarding’

‘His language is simple; straightforward, but seemingly no detail is left untended. Despite both that and the length, Learning to Lose is never ponderous or hesitant and it is clear from the first that this is an author who has something to say.’ Sienna Powers

‘In this involving ensemble piece, Trueba shows a cinematic flair for the way urban lives intersect - and collide. Crash-style, a car accident in Madrid wraps the fates of a teenager and her father around that of a promising football pro just arrived from Buenos Aires; his career is captured with a rare insight. Against the isolation of the big city, the urge to connect with others binds a snaking, swerving tale’ Boyd Tonkin

‘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

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