When the novel was launched in Germany, a few members of the audience reportedly fainted at the readings. Translated into English by Tim Mohr, who also works as an editor on Playboy, Wetlands was the world’s best-selling novel in March 2008, beating Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns.
It is told by 18-year-old Helen Memel, who spends several days in the proctological ward of a hospital to be treated for an anal fissure caused by the careless shaving of her anal hair. While confined to her hospital bed, she weaves sexual fantasies that may not agree with most readers.
She abhors personal hygiene and enjoys her bodily fluids and her unwashed vulva, to which she wants to attract sexual partners by parading it beneath her dress. “Women aren’t just a sexy presentation space, they also get ill, they have to go to the toilet, they bleed... you’ll have to face those dirty bits... otherwise you might as well not get started with the business of sex...” Roche tells an interviewer from Granta.
Noted both for its “extraordinary gross” qualities and “surprising tenderness”, Wetlands was made into a film which premiered at the Locarno International Film Festival in August 2013.
Published in 2008. Translated from the German by Tim Mohr, published in 2010.