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The Gendarme

The Gendarme

4.2 27
by Mark Mustian

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What would you do if the love of your life, and all your memories, were lost- only to reappear, but with such shocking revelations that you wish you had never remembered...

Emmett Conn is an old man, near the end of his life. A World War I veteran, he's been affected by memory loss since being injured during the war. To those around him, he's simply a


What would you do if the love of your life, and all your memories, were lost- only to reappear, but with such shocking revelations that you wish you had never remembered...

Emmett Conn is an old man, near the end of his life. A World War I veteran, he's been affected by memory loss since being injured during the war. To those around him, he's simply a confused man, fading in and out of senility. But what they don't know is that Emmett has been beset by memories, of events he and others have denied or purposely forgotten.

In Emmett's dreams he's a gendarme, escorting Armenians from Turkey. A young woman among them, Araxie, captivates and enthralls him. But then the trek ends, the war separates them. He is injured. Seven decades later, as his grasp on the boundaries between past and present begins to break down, Emmett sets out on a final journey, to find Araxie and beg her forgiveness.

Mark Mustian has written a remarkable novel about the power of memory-and the ability of people, individually and collectively, to forget. Depicting how love can transcend nationalities, politics, and religion, how racism creates divisions where none truly exist, and how the human spirit fights to survive even in the face of hopelessness, The Gendarme is a transcendent novel.

Editorial Reviews

Mike Peed
…Mustian appears to confront an enormous subject: the Turkish deportation of Armenians during World War I, when hundreds of thousands died amid a hellish march into Syria—an expulsion that has, outside Turkey, often been labeled as genocide. But in truth, Mustian…tells a story that probes a timeless array of life's general adversities: the tricks of memory that enable us to carry on with our daily existence; the brash decisions and subsequent regrets of the young; the ever present need for forgiveness; the way a single event can be subject to many interpretations. Mustian embodies the intractability of these difficulties in the image of an Armenian girl with mismatched eyes…She sees the past and the present, the good and the bad, our side and theirs. Her mystery is life's mystery.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Mustian's debut novel is a meditation on memory in which the dreams of a former Turkish soldier contain the truth of his past. Emmett Conn is 92 and living in Georgia when he begins dreaming of his youth and his involvement in the Armenian diaspora. After 70 years of amnesia caused by his WWI injuries, Emmett's past returns with a vengeance following surgery for a brain tumor. Emmett knows he fought the British at Gallipoli, was wounded, and was cared for by a nurse, Carol, whom he married and accompanied back to the U.S. But in his violent dreams, he relives his actions as a Turkish gendarme in the forced death march of thousands of Armenians into Syria. Emmett recalls snippets of his murderous and rapacious acts but also of his obsession with a beautiful young Armenian girl, Araxie. His dream life leads him to one conclusion: he must find Araxie and beg her forgiveness. Mustian's staccato prose, an attempt to emulate Emmett's skittish and elusive dreams, works sometimes better than others, but the novel effectively captures the human capacity for survival and redemption. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Though we try to deny it, the past comes to get us in the end. It certainly comes for 92-year-old Emmett Conn after he is rushed to the hospital, felled by a tiny brain tumor. Emmett starts having dark and unsettling dreams of refugees marched through a barren landscape and dying off in droves owing to hunger, thirst, dysentery, and the whims of the gendarmes herding them. These aren't dreams but suppressed memories; Emmett is actually Ahmet Khan, a soldier in the Ottoman army during World War I who was evacuated to London—he was mistaken for a British soldier—and then wed by an American nurse, who brought him stateside. What Ahmet is now recalling is his participation in the Armenian genocide. Yet on that march he scraped together enough humanity to rescue the charismatic Araxie, with whom he fell in love. VERDICT First novelist Mustian writes relentlessly, telling his haunting story in brief bursts of luminous yet entirely unsentimental prose and reminding us that, when life gets bloody, we had better watch out for our own humanity. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/10.]—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
Kirkus Reviews

Memories of the Armenian genocide haunt an ancient Turkish-American in this novel from Florida attorney Mustian.

When Ahmet Khan tried to join the Ottoman army in 1915 to fight the British and Russians, he was ruled too young, so the Turk joined the paramilitary gendarmerie instead. His first assignment was a baptism of fire. Later that year, in the army now, Ahmet suffered a brain injury and amnesia.A POW, he emerged from a long coma in a London hospital where Carol, an American nurse, protected and eventually married him. They moved to New York and had two daughters.Now, at the ripe old age of 92, Ahmet (his name Americanized to Emmett Conn) is living alone in Georgia, his wife's home state.Carol is dead.Ahmet has a seizure.Tests reveal a brain tumor. Suddenly, memories of that first assignment flood back in a series of dreams.Ahmet's job was to escort 2,000 Armenian deportees across Turkey.It was a death march, one component of the genocide.By the time they reached Aleppo, Syria, only 65 had survived. Disease had claimed many.Ahmet and his fellow gendarmes were brutal.Rape was their prerogative. Ahmet had taken a woman on the Euphrates riverbank, letting her baby perish.All set to rape another, something stopped him.Araxie was barely into her teens.Ahmet was transfixed by her strange beauty (she had mismatched eyes).A mutual attraction, perhaps?This wisp of a romance offsets the horror of the desert trek, a horror that becomes numbing.It's Hannah Arendt's banality of evil, tinged by melodrama.Mustian counterpoints this narrative with the small change of old man Ahmet's life in Georgia, his daughter Violet overseeing his hospital visits.It's an awkward mix.Ahmet comes to believe that his 17-year-old self was a monster, and he needs absolution, which leads to a wildly improbable conclusion.

An honorable failure.The cruelty of a callow youth is an inadequate distillation of man's inhumanity to man.

Product Details

ONEWorld Publications
Publication date:

Meet the Author

Mark T. Mustian is an author, attorney, and city commissioner. He lives with his wife and three children in Tallahassee, Florida.

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The Gendarme 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Rowingunl More than 1 year ago
This book is well researched and presented in the most unbiased format imaginable. It will keep your interest to the last with it's fascinating plot that incorporates a wide array of important topics including prejudice, love, immigration, and family. The author is of Armenian decent writing about an atrocity that happened to his ancestors less than a century ago in Turkey known as the Armenian Genocide. The Armenian citizens of the country, for which there were many, were determined by select members of the governing body to all be enemies of the state needing to be deported. About a million people died either through quick extermination or through the rigors of traveling so far through such desolate parts of the region in order to leave their homes behind. Mustian does a great job of describing one of the many journeys that was taken to transfer the Armenian citizens out of Turkey, in his depiction, to Syria. He creates a very eye opening revelation to a murderous time in the world's history that I was certainly taught nothing about while being educated here in the United States. The author himself was able to travel to the countries depicted in the novel in order to get an accurate representation of the place. Another fascinating part of the text is related to it's time orientation. The story is being told through the memories of an elderly man in near present day. The shifts between present and past were generally easily followed and made sense. Sometimes the characteristics of the elderly man seemed too young, but considering what he was remembering, it appeared realistic. In short, this book is a must for anyone with an interest in history or just good literature, the Middle East (which should be everyone these days), is of Armenian decent, or like me have visited the Armenian Orthodox Church in Esfahan, Iran and have seen telling pictures of the survivors of this catastrophic example of inhumanity who escaped to Iran and found refuge there.
Gynechiatrist More than 1 year ago
This book came to me as a Christmas present- my brother knows that I enjoy historical novels. But this is much, much more. This is a novel of a past and of a present. It is about how racial, ethnic, and religious differences can divide groups of very similar people. And most of all it shows us how we often cope with aweful situations by alteration of memory. This is based in 1990 and in 1915. The description of the relocation of the Armenians, the dehumanizing effect on the subjects as well as those charged to move them, and the resultant clashes that occur is enlightenting. The willingness to view the "other" group as less human is explored in several contexts. But central to this story is a love story that is lost and later found in a man's memory. The seperation of memory versus dream is explored in so many ways. Loss due to age, trauma, disease, amd self preservation of ego are all explored. As well as the way others view these changes. This is not just a chic book about a love story. this is not just a Middle East adventure book for men. This is a hauntingly beautiful book about the human condition and the things that are essential to each and all of us being human.
LaPapster More than 1 year ago
I judge a book or a movie by how many days after the reading or viewing experience that I am still thinking about it--that, and how many times a day my mind returns to the work. I read this in one sitting a week ago, and have thought about it several times each day since. That makes it a ten on even a five point scale--it is just that good. The writer's sparse, unelaborated style, unconventional but well sustained narrative line, clearly careful research, and ability to tell a truly moving story sustained me as it surely will many others. Mustian's work is hauntingly elegant, as important as it is painful to experience the blending of humankind's very worst and very best insticnts. I recommend THE GENDARME without reservation and am eager to see how other readers respond. WHAT a book!
Man_Of_La_Book_Dot_Com More than 1 year ago
The Gen­darme by Mark T. Mus­t­ian is a novel about the Armen­ian geno­cide of 1915. The events take place dur­ing World War I, when the Turks deported Arme­ni­ans into Syria – an explo­sion which is seen every­where but turkey as an act of geno­cide. Emmett Conn, born Ahmet Kahn, is 92 and suf­fers from a brain tumor and the ail­ments of old age. In his dreams, Emmett is hunted by a girl he saved while par­tic­i­pat­ing in what is to become the Armen­ian geno­cide of 1915. Even though his fam­ily thinks him unsta­ble, Emmett tries to find out what hap­pened to the girl who is one of 65 sur­vivors he was in charge of march­ing out of Turkey – 65 out of 2,000. The Gen­darme by Mark T. Mus­t­ian comes off from an inter­est­ing point of view, an old sol­dier – a Gen­darme – feels remorse about acts he com­mit­ted dur­ing World War I. after being diag­nosed with a ter­mi­nal brain tumor, the pro­tag­o­nist goes look­ing for a woman he saved, try­ing to find out what hap­pened to her. The pro­tag­o­nist is a Turk­ish sol­dier, dur­ing a bat­tle he was mis­taken for an Eng­lish trooper, sent to the hos­pi­tal and mar­ried an Amer­i­can nurse. He also lost his memory. As the 92 year old man starts remem­ber­ing some of the hor­rors he inflicted on oth­ers, he must find what hap­pened to the girl he loved, and still loves, so he can give rest to his con­scious and his dreams. The author takes a good look at a tor­tured soul, a man who did things he knew were wrong and is now try­ing to make a lit­tle amend, try­ing to fig­ure out if the life he saved made a difference. It is refresh­ing to read a story from the aggressor’s point of view, usu­ally we get a sore look from the victim’s eyes. This aggres­sor, how­ever, is jus­ti­fy­ing his acts, how­ever hor­ren­dous. In war and under pres­sure, as well as mob men­tal­ity, reg­u­lar peo­ple com­mit atroc­i­ties which weeks or even days before were unthink­able to them. While it’s not the author’s main point, he does insert many shades of grey into his story. We get to know a man who we would oth­er­wise con­sider a war crim­i­nal. We fol­low his tri­als, tribu­la­tions, his rela­tion­ship with his daugh­ters, his trou­bled grand­son, his dead wife and his long lost love which he gave up a lot for but still doesn’t exactly know why? Maybe to save a shade of human­ity which is lost dur­ing such times. This book works on many lev­els, his­tor­i­cal and emo­tional, it ana­lyzes regret, for­give­ness and how our per­cep­tion changes with the envi­ron­ment and over­time. A well writ­ten novel about an over­looked geno­cide and the human experience.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Heart wrenchlng story of horrific events in a young mans life. Memoried llost for 70years start seeping back into an old mansconsciousnesl
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this novel, although it is very graphic and dark in places. The descriptions of events and places involved are very well written.
Camboron More than 1 year ago
I have gotten in discussions lately regarding atrocities committed by soldiers that violate the Geneva Convention. Some people believe that, under no circumstances should such atrocities be committed. Others understand why they happen, given all the circumstances in which a soldier finds oneself. Others say, "The enemy gets what they deserve." This final group would resonate with Ahmet's realist admonitions to Araxie, regarding the ". . . simplicity of youth...the naïveté of black and white...there has been injustice, as there would be in anything". Ahmet's logic rests alongside such atrocities, and I wasn't sure I'd want to read this book and be confronted with these things. However, I found no issue with Mark Mustian's tale of a Turkish-American uncovering memories (his, or otherwise) of a soldier's service in Turkey as a gendarme during WWI. I wondered why I continue to read on, why I continued to feel for Araxie, Ahmet, and "Emmitt", Ahmet's Americanized persona. I think the distance of years helped, but also Emmitt's own doubts that Ahmet's memories were his own. I was reminded of Nicole Krauss' equally moving THE HISTORY OF LOVE, and how war, and immigrants fleeing to America from it, created these dual personalities for so many people. The gap is stretched even more when we read of Emmitt struggling to connect with his children and grandchildren, all modern, all American, and so different from he. I never thought I could come to love someone like Ahmet, and I thought I did, or maybe I didn't--maybe I just wanted him to be happy, to finally be reconciled with his past and its actions. He is like us all, imperfect, human, and capable of such change. At the end of this novel, I wondered if the possibility of redemption exists for everyone, and is it attainable from within, or only from those we have wronged? I cannot speak for others, especially those with family history regarding the Armenian genocide, but it has made me forgive my own tormentors a little more, so I guess it is possible.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gripping story that moves between the experiences of a young Turkish gendarme forced to oversee atrocities against the minority Armenian population and the experiences of an elderly man as he begins to remember the traumas he had buried from decades before. Very moving, well-crafted, interesting book that exposes a conflict that has gotten little attention in the past.
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jlacknet More than 1 year ago
Just a top notch story, by an author that really knows how to write. The prose flows like oil, smoothly through thick and thin, and there is lots of both. I never knew anything about genocide against Armenians around 1915, but this certainly wakes you up. Harrah, and hope for more from this talented author. The sophisticated book club members should latch onto this one. jlacknet
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Reading-maven More than 1 year ago
This is historical fiction at its best! A difficult to put down story placed at the time of the "Armenian Genocide" during World War 1. The 100 year anniversary is coming up in 2014 and this book will, I'm sure, be a part of that. Also highly recommended, from another angle and equally gripping is Steven E. Wilson's recently released novel "The Ghosts of Anatolia: An Epic Journey to Forgiveness." The two books compliment each other.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
tottman More than 1 year ago
Very interesting book. Perspective flashes back and forth between 1990 when the narrator is 92 years old and WWI during the Armenian genocide. It dances between whether the dreams of WWI are memories or fantasies. My only complaint is that the part of the narrative in 1990 didn't hold my attention as well as the earlier memories. But the descriptions of the atrocities during the march of the Armenians were full of beautiful savagery. They really draw you in to the unspeakable cruelty that was committed, and let you share the crippling burden of having such horrifying memories recalled after decades of amnesia. Is it better to not be able to recall your past, or to remember it in painful detail? Is the power of forgiveness strong enough to heal such memories? The images will linger in your imagination long after you put the book down
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