‘Cloudwall’ by Germán Sierra

‘Cloudwall’ is the first story written in English by Spanish writer and neuroscientist, Germán Sierra. It’s a story of anthropology and of humanity (of our tentative, romantic, erotic, intellectual selves) set in an imminent future where the boundaries between mind and body and technology are completely blurred. It took my breath away when I first read it, and it’s one of the few stories I return to.

The fact that this is not a translation and was written directly in English—Sierra’s second language—is, I think, a really interesting concept. He saw it as a challenge, an experiment, “like writing within an Oulipianesque linguistic constraint.” Sierra has said that his only continuous relationship with English is as a reader, because, unlike Nabokov or Beckett, who wrote in languages learned by moving to another country and immersing themselves in that language and culture, Sierra predominantly uses his native Spanish in his every day work and life. It is a stunning work, not in spite of—but precisely because of—this language shift. Occasionally some of the phrasing, a cadence or syntax, has the quality of having been generated artificially by an extremely intelligent, perhaps sentient, computer—which, I think, is exactly what the story itself would demand.

Germán Sierra has five novels and a book of stories published in Spanish, and his first novel written in English, THE ARTIFACT, was published last month by the innovative small press Inside the Castle.

Published by Numéro Cinq, 2016, online here