by Charlotte Roche
translation by Tim Mohr
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Charlotte Roche’s controversial novel, Wetlands, is an uneven yet adventurous catalogue of filth, a feminist critique of what cultural theorist Lauren Berlant calls “hygienic governmentality.” In the case of Wetlands, this means a politics housed in the anarchic, messy body of German teenager Helen Memel. Narrating from her hospital bed after hemorrhoid surgery, eighteen-year-old Helen sees herself as a sanitary terrorist, rallying against the deceitfully liberational promises of tampon ads and shaving commercials and of a fascist regime of douching and wiping from front to back.
One can’t help but compare Helen’s explicitly detailed hygienic transgressions with those of the adolescent libertines of Georges Bataille’s Story of the Eye, whose young man and two young women commit a similar litany of blissful expulsions
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