Saturday, July 31, 2010

Fiction: Learning to Lose by David Trueba

David Trueba is only one of a cadre of contemporary Spanish novelists delivering compelling novels of luxurious length. Screenwriter and novelist Trueba's Learning to Lose (Other Books) is the author's third work of book-length fiction, but the first to be published in English. North American fans of arthouse films are more likely to be aware of Trueba’s work in that medium, including his widely acclaimed directorial debut for La Buena Vida. In Spain, however, even three novels in, Trueba’s voice is becoming well known. And it truly is a voice worth knowing. 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.
Desire works like the wind. With no apparent effort. If it finds our sails extended, it will drag us at a dizzying speed. If our doors and shutters are closed, it banbgs at them for a while, searching for cracks or slots it can slip in through. The desire attached to an object of desire binds us to it. But there is another kind of desire, abstract, disconcerting, that envelopes us like a mood.
The trajectory of sixteen year old Syliva’s life is altered forever when she breaks her leg in a car accident. The driver of the car is a 20-year-old Argentinean soccer player. While the broken duo find themselves at the center of a blooming romance, Sylvia’s father and grandfather discover their own drama; one that includes murder and intrigue.

These are the bare facts of plot, yet Learning to Lose is about so much more, including the challenges and morals of modern life; the connections of family. In fact, in many ways, Learning to Lose tackles all of the big questions of life while the pace never lessens, despite the weight of the book and the detail Trueba manages to include. It’s a very good book, one that resonates long after the last page is turned. ◊

Sienna Powers is a transplanted Calgarian who lives and works in Vancouver, B.C. She is a writer and conceptual artist.

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