[This page by Gesine Haberlah]
Charlotte Roche was born 18 March 1978 in High Wycombe, United Kingdom. She is an Anglo-German author and television presenter. She grew up in Germany and started her career as a video-jockey and presenter for the German music channel Viva Zwei, later Viva. Her work was rewarded when she received the famous Grimme-Preis in 2004. She continued to present interview shows and entertainment shows on different German TV channels, such as ProSieben and ARD. Furthermore, Roche is also a singer and actress. She has worked with German musicians, such as the band Fehlfarben and the singer Bela B, has featured in the corresponding music videos and acted in the films Eden (2006) and Demonium (2001). She has also performed as the narrator of audio-books, as well as in shows with the German authors Christoph Maria Herbst and Heinz Strunk. Besides these activities, she has published two novels to date – Feuchtgebiete (published in English as Wetlands), in 2008, and Schoßgebete (published in English as Wrecked) in 2011.
Roche’s novels focus on young women, and engage with the contemporary issues of family, femininity and sexual demands. The media and critics have paid a lot of attention to the style of both the novels, especially the parts featuring descriptions of sexual and hygienic practices, which are perceived as being highly provocative.
Nevertheless, or because of this, Roche’s first novel Feuchtgebiete; Wetlands (2008) was the world's best-selling novel at Amazon.com in March 2008 (‘Fiction in German makes it to pole position’, The Economist, 3 April 2008); by early 2009, 1,500,500 copies were sold in Germany (‘Charlotte Roche is an unlikely shock artist’, The Times, 1 February 2009). The novel’s protagonist is the first-person narrator Helen Memel, who is recovering, following surgery to have her haemorrhoids removed. Helen narrates the experience of her stay in hospital in the present, as well as recanting past events from her youth and childhood, which mainly concern either sexual experiences or her corporal hygiene. The reader learns about Helen’s opinions about bodily hygiene and sexual intercourse, including her preferences, habits and neuroses. During this time, she desperately tries to extend her stay in the hospital to increase the possibility of her divorced parents meeting and getting back together. However, her project fails; she is released, accompanied by the nurse Robin, before her plan comes to fruition.
Schoßgebete (2011), translated as Wrecked (2013), Roche’s second novel, is similarly structured. Again, a female protagonist, 33-year-old Elizabeth Kiehl, describes a few days from her everyday life and provides, in flashbacks, information about a dramatic event which permanently changed the lives of her and her family. On the way to Elizabeth’s wedding, three of her brothers were killed in a car accident in Holland. To come to terms with the past, she goes into therapy. With her therapist, Elizabeth also discusses her sexual life, her anxiety about losing her husband Georg to someone else, her constant worries over her will and her concerns for the education of her daughter, Liza. Again, sexual activities, such as oral-sexual intercourse and the couple’s joint visit to an escort agency, are described in detail.
The narrator’s style is similar to a spoken conversation, the sentences are sometimes unfinished, with the diction being unconventional and direct. All the descriptions of sexual activities are explicitly visual. For this reason, Feuchtgebiete; Wetlands in particular, has caused a massive uproar in the media. Roche’s public performances support the idea that the two novels should be read as autobiographies. Moreover, Roche has benefited from deliberate provocation in the public sphere, using it as a marketing strategy.
Feuchtgebiete; Wetlands (2008)
Schoßgebete (2011), translated as Wrecked (2013)
Mädchen für alles (2015) A Girl for Everything
(with Martin Keß-Roche) Paardiologie. Das Beziehungs-Buch (2020) Couple Dialogues: The Relationship Book
Charlotte Roche, Wetlands, trans. by Tim Mohr (New York: Grove Press, 2009)
Charlotte Roche, Wrecked, trans. by Tim Mohr (London: HarperCollins, 2013)
Further Reading in English
‘Fiction in German makes it to pole position’, The Economist, 3 April 2008
‘Charlotte Roche is an unlikely shock artist’, The Times, 1 February 2009
Sophie Harrison, ‘And she seems like such a nice girl…’, The Observer, 1 February 2009
Emily Jeremiah, Willful Girls: Gender and Agency in Contemporary Anglo-American and German Fiction (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2018)
Philip Oltermann, ‘Interview: Charlotte Roche’, Granta, 10 May 2008
Helen Pidd, ‘Charlotte Roche revisits mix of sex and controversy in new novel, Schossgebete’, The Guardian, 16 August 2011
Emily Spiers, Pop-Feminist Narratives: The Female Subject under Neoliberalism in North America, Britain, and Germany (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018)
Web Links in German
Charlotte Roche on Instagram
Podcast about Roche’s latest book, written with her husband Martin Keß-Roche