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The Gendarme Hardcover – September 2, 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 75 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From 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.
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"Mark T. Mustian has written an extraordinary novel dealing with some of the most difficult issues of the twentieth century, issues that profoundly threaten this new century as well. The Gendarme explores humanity's capacity for large–scale evil and how that capacity expresses itself through ordinary, small–scale, individual lives. This is a harrowing and truly important novel by a splendid American writer."

—Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Hell and A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain

"One reads this masterful work thinking all the while of its literary cousins—The Death of Artemio Cruz by Carlos Fuentes, Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, Snow by Orhan Pamuk. Books such as these, novels like The Gendarme, writers like Mr. Mustian, keep our world afloat amidst the tempests of history. Humanity would no longer recognize itself, its enduring passions and cruelties and triumphs, without them."

—Bob Shacochis, National Book Award–winning author of Easy in the Islands and Swimming in the Volcano

"I love this book. The haunting lesson from this gifted writer is that even the legacy of war cannot triumph over the human spirit. Where there is love and humanity, the human spirit triumphs. Read it."

—Sandra Dallas, New York Times bestselling author of Prayers for Sale

"The Gendarme does what few have the courage to do: haunted by memories of war crimes he committed under another name, he turns and enters his nightmare to find the woman who was his enemy then and now, decades later, is still his first great love. Mark Mustian shows the reader what the face of history looks like without the makeup. Mainly, though, he paints an unforgettable portrait of the human spirit at its bravest and most resilient."

—David Kirby, member of the National Book Critics Circle Board of Directors, NEA and Guggenheim Foundation Fellow, and author of The Ha–Ha

"Ahmet Khan's spiritual transition to Emmet Cohn is emotionally resonant. This is an important and unique journey told with compassion and a stirring sense of humanity."

—Atom Egoyan

"Why are war stories so often truly love stories? Because, as Mustian proves in The Gendarme, love in the face of war gives testimony that love endures our savagery, our violence, our hatred. In this powerful retelling of the horrible crimes committed against Armenians at the beginning of World War I, The Gendarme is a beautiful, haunting tale of survival and resilience."

—Julianna Baggott, author of The Miss America Family and The Madam


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Adult HC/TR; First Edition edition (September 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399156348
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399156342
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,908,517 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book was haunting and beautifully written - this last being all the more noticeable and affecting given the utter ugliness and horror that the language is often portraying. Mustian brings to life with searing vividness the squalor, disease, and everyday violence that made up the caravans, tent cities, and refugee destinations of the Armenian Genocide. He uses the same blunt simplicity to describe both the rape of a woman trying to save her child in wartime Turkey and the seemingly unbridgeable gap existing between a daughter and her dying father at the end of the 20th century in America. There were many passages that I marked off as I read through, thinking that I would choose one or two to quote in my review, but now having finished the book I find myself unable to pick just a couple.

THE GENDARME is a novel about the two very different stories that make up one man's life. Emmett Conn (Ahmet Khan) is a man at the end of his life. He's 92-years-old, a widower, and has two daughters, neither of whom he is very close to. After being diagnosed with a brain tumor, he starts to dream about another life during another time in another land: that of a young 17-year-old gendarme in charge of driving a caravan of Armenians out of Turkey and into Syria.

Ahmet has very few memories of anything before his early twenties, when he was found by the British on a battlefield and taken to a London hospital to be treated. This life that comes to him in pieces and fragments is not one that he remembers, yet as the story of it begins to unfold, he recognizes it as his own and hungers for the complete picture and for the self-knowledge that has so long alluded him. This other tale is one filled with violence, confusion, anger, guilt, and love bordering on obsession.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
What exactly is Mark Mustian's book The Gendarme? It's a story of love set against the background of war and intolerance; it's a history lesson about the Armenian genocide that most of us didn't get in school; it's a commentary about how we treat our elderly when they become physically or mentally incapacitated; it's the story of dreams and lost memories and what they tell us about ourselves; and finally, it's an examination of divisive use of religious differences and racism created and justified by nations in order to advance political agendas. And while this book examines all of the aforementioned, some of it is done in a rather ephemeral and perfunctory manner.

Alternating between Wadesboro, Georgia in the 1990's and Turkey and Syria 75 years earlier we are given two narratives delivered by the same man at different stages in his life. Emmett Conn (Ahmet Khan) is currently 92 years old and suffering from a terminal brain tumor that has triggered vivid dreams of events buried in his subconscious since he suffered a head injury in WW1. His recollections of the brutality involved in the forced march of Armenians from Turkey to Syria appear, to this reader, to be shockingly authentic however, his memories of Araxie (she of the mismatched eyes) and their bittersweet love teeters on the brink of preposterous and puts me in mind of some old "bodice-rippers" in which the heroine is raped by the hero, falls madly in love and follows him to the ends of the earth. Emmett's dreams too are suspect because not only do they recall the past in sequence, but his brutality seems to replay as less callous and barbaric than his cohorts like Mustafa.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The haunting cover art, portraying a lovely young girl with two different colored eyes, is what first attracted me to this debut novel, The Gendarme. Trust me, once you finish this story it will stay with you for days to come.

In 1990, Emmett Conn is a 92 year old Turkish-American man, who is recovering from surgery for a brain tumor. In Georgia, to his family and friends he seems confused or senile. However, what has happened to Emmett is that after his surgery he is experiencing vivid dreams of World War I events he had previously or purposely forgotten. Memories that were lost, perhaps due to a war injury, have now returned some 70 years later.

The novel goes back and forth in time to when Emmett was a Turkish Gendarme who brought Armenians from Turkey in a death march to Syria.

"The original two thousand deportees have dwindled now to three hundred, many of these suffering from dysentery. A number of the guards are gone, too, leaving only three gendarmes, including myself to prod our group on its way. Our progress has been slower than before, maybe six or seven miles per day. At this pace it will take four or five days to reach our destination. Food is scarce, water even scarcer. The dead and dying increase daily. At the current rate of loss, only fifty or so of the deportees might actually make it to Aleppo."

Araxie is a lovely Armenian girl that Emmett becomes obsessed with and tries to protect. In his dreams he is reunited with his captive who he thought of as the love of his life. He is desperate to find her, and to beg her forgiveness for his sins of the past.

MY THOUGHTS - Even though this story is a work of fiction, I feel like I was given a painful lesson in history. Sadly, Armenian Genocide is a subject that I knew nothing about.
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