High as the Waters Rise

Finalist, National Book Awards 2020 for Translated Literature

ISBN 9781948226523
Anja Kampmann

German poet Anja Kampmann was born in Hamburg and resides in Leipzig. High as the Waters Rise is her first novel, for which she received the Mara Cassens Prize for best German debut novel and the Lessing Promotion Prize. More about this author >

Anne Posten

Anne Posten translates prose, poetry, and drama from the German. More about this author >

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From the publisher:

One night aboard an oil drilling platform in the Atlantic, Waclaw returns to his cabin to find that his bunkmate and companion, Mátyás, has gone missing. A search of the rig confirms his fear that Mátyás has fallen into the sea.

Grief-stricken, he embarks on an epic emotional and physical journey that takes him to Morocco, to Budapest and Mátyás’s hometown in Hungary, to Malta, Italy, and finally to the mining town of his childhood in Germany. Waclaw’s encounters along the way with other lost and yearning souls – Mátyás’s angry, grieving half-sister; lonely rig workers on shore leave; a truck driver who watches the world change from his driver’s seat – bring us closer to his origins while also revealing the problems of a globalized economy dependent on waning natural resources. High as the Waters Rise is a stirring exploration of male intimacy, the nature of memory and grief, and the cost of freedom – the story of a man who stands at the margins of a society from which he has profited little, though its functioning depends on his labor.

Judges Citation

High as the Waters Rise, the first novel by German poet Anja Kampmann, explores the devastation of one man's personal grief as a window onto our own. In sumptuous, incantatory prose, rendered vividly by translator Anne Posten, Kampmann patiently rebuilds a life splintered by the unyielding forces that shape our world, as the magnitude of a single tragedy reflects the countless small tragedies that preceded it.