cover image High as the Water Rise

High as the Water Rise

Anja Kampmann, trans. from the German by Anne Posten. Catapult, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-1-948-22652-3

The beautiful English-language debut from German poet Kampmann tells the story of a middle-aged oil rig worker’s emotional crisis after the death of his friend. Wenzel Waclaw is devastated when he discovers that his bunkmate, Matyas, has fallen from the oil rig platform where they work and drowned. After learning Matya’s family hasn’t been informed of his death, Waclaw travels to Bocsa, Hungary, to notify Matyas’s half-sister, Patricia, and realizes he knew little about Matyas’s past and motivations—and perhaps knows even less about his own. Waclaw then revisits his own severed connections: in Malta he breaks things off with his on-again, off-again lover; in the foothills of the Italian Alps he reconnects with his late father’s friend; and in Germany he looks for his common-law wife, Milena, whom he hasn’t contacted in years. He also reflects on the toll coal mining took on his father’s health, and Matyas’s shame and frustration following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill when they were working in the Gulf of Mexico. As Waclaw digs up memories of his drilling throughout the world—in Morocco, Mexico, and Brazil—he ruminates on generations of workers who must eke out a living by exploiting the earth and its resources. Kampmann captures the visceral uneasiness that arises from second guessing one’s past. (Sept.)