Author Charlotte Roche became the first author from Germany to top Amazon’s worldwide bestseller list with her debut novel Wetlands.
The book sparked an international bidding war and will be published in the UK by Fourth Estate on February 5. It has provoked debate over whether Roche can call herself a feminist yet write porn, and is the most extreme example yet of an increasingly popular genre: erotic material written by women.
The narrator of Wetlands is Helen, an 18-year-old who regales readers with a stream of sexually explicit subject matter.
According to Roche, she is “a heroine that has a totally creative attitude towards her body” and the character is somewhat autobiographical. “Men think they can be disgusting and sexual and stuff, and now I’ve shown them that women can do the same,” she said. “I am very much for pornography.”
The book has caused a debate over whether or not a feminist can also advocate for pornography. On the one hand feminism shouldn’t be exclusive from sexuality, but at a certain point it’s impossible to deny that pornography is nothing more than the exploitation of women. At some point, for me at least, feminism and pornography seem at odds with one another. It’s a conversation worth having.
Roche’s readings have been restricted to an over-18 crowd, with many audience members fainting from certain excerpts. Many of the passages from the book are based upon Roche’s own life experiences, in fact, the book began as a memoir and later rewritten as fiction.
Plot Description: Helen Memel is an outspoken eighteen-year-old, whose childlike stubbornness is offset by a precocious sexual confidence. She begins her story from a hospital bed, where she’s slowly recovering from an operation and lamenting her parents’ divorce.
To distract herself, Helen ruminates on her past sexual adventures in increasingly uncomfortable detail, taking the reader on a sensational journey through Helen’s body and mind. Punky alienated teenager, young woman reclaiming her body from the tyranny of repressive hygiene (women mustn’t smell, excrete, desire), bratty smartass, vulnerable, lonely daughter, shock merchant, and pleasure seeker—Helen is all of these things and more, and her frequent attempts to assert her maturity ultimately prove just how fragile, confused, and young she truly is.
As Helen constantly blurs the line between celebration, provocation, and dysfunction in her relationship with her body, Roche exposes the double bind of female sexuality, delivering a compulsively readable and fearlessly intimate manifesto on sex, hygiene, and the repercussions of family trauma.