Books of 2022: Femke by David Cameron

We are absolutely delighted to announce that our first fiction title of 2022 will be Femke by David Cameron, a Glasgow-born poet and novelist and winner of the 2014 Hennessy Literary Award. An author of poetry, non-fiction and fiction, this is his third novel and first since 2019’s Prendergast’s Fall.

This manuscript came to us during our submission window last year, and while the many complications of life delayed (and continue to delay) that reading process, David’s novel was always in the forefront of our mind and is one we are extremely excited to publish. Vivid and layered, Femke is that rare mix of arresting vital prose and literary experimentation, with a thematic complexity that rewards close reading. Read on for a synopsis:

Walking turn-of-the-century Amsterdam with her loyal dog Bibi, Femke is many things: a drifter who spends much of her time in a drug-ridden park; a daughter of the colonial Dutch; a magnetic personality prone to petit mal seizures and destructive relationships; a liar. This is her story.

Following an exploitative affair with a British filmmaker, she meets and befriends an ageing poet, Michel de Koning, and tries to nurse him back to health. As their friendship develops, De Koning’s mysterious past – involving the poet and murderer Gerrit Achterberg – leads Femke on a journey to discover the identity of De Koning’s great love and inspiration, ‘M’. This pursuit of the truth reveals the uncertainties of her own past in a world of unreliable listeners.

Written with a clear poetic sensibility and strong echoes of European Modernism, Femke is a celebration of the stories we tell ourselves and one another, the elusiveness of our fleeting connections, and the complex power dynamics between poet and muse.

The novel is due to be published November 17, the day the great 17th century Dutch poet and playwright Joost van den Vondel was born. Vondel’s Lucifer was a direct inspiration for Milton’s Paradise Lost (most famously in its line ‘Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven’) and the spirit of intertextuality and cross-cultural literary relationships exists right at the heart of David’s novel. On a personal note, it is a pleasure to publish the work of a Scottish novelist living abroad whose work deserves more recognition in his homeland. Femke is already one of our favourite characters and narrators – given the chance, we’re sure you’ll feel the same.

David Cameron is a Glasgow-born poet and novelist. In 2014 he received the Hennessy Literary Award. He is, according to Ron Butlin, ‘one of the most insightful and thought-provoking poets around’, and his poetry (collected in The Bright Tethers and Korean Letters) has also been praised by Seamus Heaney and Liz Lochhead, among others. Reviewing Cameron’s first collection of fiction, Rousseau Moon, Robert Nye wrote that his work ‘transmutes the base matter of common experience into something like gold’; Alistair Braidwood described Cameron’s experimental novel, Prendergast’s Fall, as ‘one of the most inventive and interesting novels of recent times’. Cameron has also written a critical study, Samuel Beckett: The Middle and Later Years. He continues to work closely with the Toronto-based composer David Jaeger on several settings of his poems. From late 2000 to mid-2004, Cameron lived in Amsterdam, where Femke is set, teaching English before becoming a writer-editor for the European Cultural Foundation. He now works as a learning consultant in Belfast. He is married to the Irish glass artist Louise Rice, and they have three children.

photo copyright: Elaine Hill

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