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To most people Emmett Conn is a confused old World War I veteran fading in and out of senility But in his mind Emmett is haunted by events he'd long forgotten In his dreams he's a gendarme a soldier marching Armenians out of Turkey He commits unspeakable acts Yet he feels compelled to spare one remarkable woman Araxie the girl with the piercing eyes one green one blueAs the past and present bleed together in The Gendarme Emmett Conn sets out on one final journey to find Araxie and beg forgiveness before it's too late With uncompromising vision and boundless compassion Mark Mustian has written a transcendent meditation on the power of memory and the dangers of forgetting who we are and have been

10 thoughts on “The Gendarme

  1. says:

    The Armenian Genocide an old man just beginning to remember a young soldier falling in love and the search for forgiveness 45 starsThis book was haunting and beautifully written this last being all the noticeable and affecting given the utter ugliness and horror that the language is often portraying Mustian brings to life with searing vividness the sualor 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 uote 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 SyriaAhmet 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 Central to it is the young woman Araxie one of Ahmet's Armenian prisoners and their meeting seems fated with both lives irreparably and irrevocably changed as a resultThrough this novel the reader is given a stark look at the Armenian Genocide and Mustian takes an incredible chance by portraying it all through the eyes of one of the perpetrator's This is a heavy responsibility and a careful balance must be achieved but the author is able to pull it off and the book as well as its message are all the stronger because of it With his choice of heroes Mustian leaves the reader conflicted from the beginning for while we are able to relate to and sympathize with elderly Emmett Conn the young Ahmet Khan is a rapist and murdererHis actions are not described in a vacuum however and as we are shown the atrocities he witnesses and commits we are also given insight into his own confusion and uestioning over why this is all taking place and what the purpose is He is not an unwilling actor and should by no means be seen as such but the truth is that he is also a young man almost a boy who seems to be swept along by the events surrounding him doing what he's been told to do accepting the reasoning behind it and not uestioning at first whether it's right or wrong As the full of Ahmet's story is revealed to Emmett he is left with the pressing and urgent need to find the woman whom he loved so profoundly and to beg her forgivenessOne criticism I can't go without mentioning is that I could never uite figure out Emmett's feeling towards and relationship with his wife Carol She remained something of an enigma to me throughout the book and although she's not actively present in either the main story or the flashbacks I thought she should have nonetheless been fully developed I'm also not certain how I feel about the conclusion in the second to last chapter; it brought me to tears but I think the story might have been served better and the reader left satisfied if it had been written in a different manner It would be a spoiler if I wrote anything or included my suggestionI'm curious to see what the reaction to The Gendarme will be given the political tensions and continued sensitivity that surround the Armenian Genocide including even using the word genocide I think the book would make an excellent book club selection and might be further enhanced by being read alongside a non fiction account One that the author mentions is Peter Balakian's Black Dog of Fate An American Son Uncovers His Armenian Past and there is also The Burning Tigris The Armenian Genocide and America's Response by the same author both of which are highly rated I myself have not read eitherOverall I would highly recommend this book it is a well written emotionally involving and deeply moving story Mustian seeks to highlight the importance of seeking forgiveness and the necessity of remembering and he succeeds wonderfully The Gendarme is about forgiveness and guilt memory and forgetting acknowledgement and denial love and hate and the strength of the human spirit and the complexity of human beings It reinforces the undeniable truth that we can never be just one thing or one act but that we are defined by a culmination of all aspects of our character and all the actions and decisions that we make throughout our lifeIn one of the last pages a character remarks A few things remain seared so deep as to defy alteration Maybe there are some things that should be passed on that should never be forgotten p283 This is echoed in Mustian's Author's Note where he writes Remembering is living Forgetting as Ahmet Khan learns has its costs We want to know Sometimes that knowledge is painful or inconvenient or even damning But it is essential It exposes us for what we have been and can be This review is of an advanced copy format of the bookWritten on August 5 2010

  2. says:

    As a 2nd generation Diasporan Armenian I typically dread reliving stories about the Armenian Genocide that took place around 1915 in Western Turkey Growing up I heard enough stories from elderly relatives who survived many of whom lost wives husbands children parents and friends But my sister's avid recommendation of this book prompted me to try it Mark Mustain uses an ingenious plot device a brain tumor that spurs recollections from many decades before The protagonist would just as soon keep the memories buried until bits and pieces start coming together to provide a compelling reason for him to follow up in the present day The characters are well drawn and the story moves along uickly The Gendarme in the title reveals enough moral complexity to elicit a measure of empathy from this reader despite his worst actions He is above all a human being with a conscience as we would hope all people are even those who perpetrate horrors on others After evil has occurred the clock cannot be turned back The most we can hope for is that the perpetrators come to understand the effects of their actions and seek whatever resolution they can if not forgiveness at least acknowledgment

  3. says:

    I found The Gendarme eual parts interesting and disturbing I knew nothing about the Armenian genocide and although I was glad to be enlightened to those events it was definitely a tough read But this book left such a lasting impression that I’m glad I kept enduringEmmett Conn fought in WWI and was injured Through some sort of twist of fate he ends up recovering and moving to the United States and he gets married and has children—a normal unremarkable life by many However in his old age as he’s becoming ill he is beset by strange dreams where he’s remembering a past life At first he can’t understand how the cruel gendarme from his dream ushering suffering Armenians out of Turkey could be him But the dreams begin to paint a picture that he knows must be true And at the center of these memories lies a beautiful womanI thought this was a creative plot line and although not a page turner it kept my interest as I was shifted back and forth between present and past With the amnesia we were able to get inside a war criminal’s head without the inherent evil and hate This fact leaves the reader with a difficult conundrum what to do with Emmett? Do we hate him or can we forgive him? By all accounts Emmett led an ordinary life after his accident even a benevolent one considering that he faithfully took care of his ailing wife for so long But after he comes to know of his past and us too it’s hard to look at him in the same way And yet he’s still the same person That dichotomy is what makes him such an intriguing character I wonder that the author is somehow illustrating that piece of human nature—that we all have this part of our personalities there ready to be activated or deactivated as with Emmett Are we all of us capable of such heinous crimes? No matter what good a person does in the world could that same person be capable of the same level of action on the opposite the evil side of the spectrum?And then there’s Araxie this arrestingly beautiful Armenian woman Emmett somehow comes to believe he must protect her at all costs And his dreams do not put his mind at rest about what’s happened to her What should he do with this information now that he’s in his 90s? What could he hope to do for her now? How could he go his whole life long practically as one person to find out that he’s someone else entirely Someone who probably should have spent his life in prison He is decent enough to know that He hasn’t abandoned all the values and morals that govern human decency just because he once had none And yet there are sparks in his character in his sordid past that make you stop and wonder where in fact he went wrong What along his path led him to be vicious when he is capable of compassion at least in Araxie’s case Perhaps compassion could only be compelled from him in the face of a strong and beautiful woman Although if he was to be as he should have been as a gendarme I mean a pretty face should have only made him the cruel It is his love for Araxie that becomes his saving grace It redeems him as a character When normally I would find him repulsive in fact it is hard not to do so I find his determination to save one woman very courageousBy the book’s description I was expecting the main part of the text to be somewhat of a travelogue For EmmentAhmet to find out his true identity and make for Turkey in search of Araxie To spend weeks and months there leaving no stone unturned and then learn of himself and his past as he went from place to place But I have to say that I find Mustian’s creation much realistic and meaningful What Emmett spent his whole life looking for his past is both terrible and beautiful It’s a perfect puzzle one which he will never be able to untangle One he can only vaguely believe One he will always regret Perhaps that is the reason his dreams make him act crazyI have to say this book took dedication to finish It’s none of it easy to read I enjoyed the pace although I found some parts starting to lag Overall I found it a very thoughtful read and I’m sure I’ll be thinking about it for some time stillwwwmakniksblogspotcom

  4. says:

    The Armenian Deportations of 1915 as presented by the other side a young Turkish man who is a gendarme or paramilitary policeman guarding a convoy of Armenians headed to Aleppo Syria The story flashes from the past to the present back and forth After this stint Ahmet Khan the protagonist now in the Turkish army is wounded mistaken by the British for one of theirs taken to a hospital and meets and marries Carol an American nurse taking an Anglicized version of his old name Emmett Conn She brings him to the States where he has a fulfilling career as plumber then builder After a prolonged illness and his caring for her Carol dies Emmett has a brain tumor and only remembers his past life in flashes He remembers meeting an Armenian girl not much younger than he and falls in love although he does his share of cruel things on the brutal trek Now 92 years of age he searches for his past as a young man in Turkey; he doesn't remember much before the British hospital How much is true; how much are dreams or visions through seizures? He searches for Araxie whom the dreams have brought to life again for him This beautifully written novel was depressing but a page turner The ending seemed a little too pat And I disliked his daughters Some of the present day incidents seemed a bit implausible especially his drive to New York I did wonder about a 17 year old as leader of a group of gendarmes; I thought that was very young for a position of responsibility Highly recommended I felt it showed the endurance of love amidst obstacles

  5. says:

    I so wish this rating system was different but I loved this book and learned so much from it Mainly I was deeply moved by Emmett Conn's story told through his dreams that took place 70 yrs earlier Emmett is now 92 yrs old and ready to die but his dreams return him to a time during WWI when his Turkish Gov commits genocide against millions of Armenians His true love Araxie was a deportee then the plight of these people is vividly described The extermination of Jews was not the only unbelievebly cruel injustice that occurred Thank you Mark Mustian for a job well done Why after 70 yrs is Emmett remembering things he had forgotten for so long? That's a good uestion best answered by any survivor of cruelties so indescribable or the perpetrators of that violence I would want to forget too Emmett's unflinching will to reconnect with his true love is a beautiful story of love and committment and strength

  6. says:

    It's not a bad book It's a popular book popular fiction and I don't mean that in a bad way and as such it makes an act of history the Armenian Genocide accessible to people who don't know much or anything about itOn one level the novel functions as a mystery of one man's mind Is what Emmett is remembering real? How much of what he is relating is true? On another level it doesn't uite work as a love story This is because we only get Emmett's view and at times that is problematic This ties into the idea of what is real and what isn't But that ties into the uestion of how much do we trust Emmett Which makes it an interesting book if not a great one

  7. says:

    The Gendarme FlowerWhy do you pick up a book? What makes that book alluring as opposed to the one next to it? Everyone has their sucker points I'm a sucker for maps uniue type styles fabrics patterns shoes with no feet in them But never never ever feet with no shoes on them dishes tea kettles and tea pots partially revealed figures and the just plain pretty Since I buy lots of books there must be an awful lot of covers that peak my interest Of course you may judge a book worthy of picking up by it's cover but you don't always buy it I did touch and then buy The Gendarme by first time author Mark Mustian I had not heard anything about this novel prior to seeing it displayed in an independent bookstore but the cover is so striking shades of the National Geographic Afghan girl and so simple that I was compelled to grab it and have a look If my local chain store was stocking this title at all it was not in one of the many piles of books nor was it faced out in the new fiction section so it did not get my attentionThe gendarme is Emmett Conn Emmett is a World War I vet near the end of his life Although he's suffered from memory problems since being injured during the war that prevent him from remembering much of that experience and his life before it the war has defined his life Now strange dreams that may or may not be hidden memories from that time are intruding on his life In these dreams his status as a soldier is confused He is a gendarme escorting Armenians out of Turkey He is 'Ahmet Kahn' and he is desperately in love with a young refugee named Araxie In Emmett's 'real' life his relationships with his grown daughter and grandson are typically complicated and in need of repair To heal understand and forgive himself for what may have been his participation in the Armenian Genocide Emmett must extract the truth of his life from within these illusive and disturbing memories and dreams This was an excellent novel The different periods were brought off beautifully It was appealing to my love of historical fiction and the contemporary setting was successful as well and so did not suffer by comparison This is not a history of the genocide but the elements of it that are incorporated into the plot are written with enough authority to capture the level of horrors of that experience Mustian also writes movingly and believably about Emmett's two lives The book is told in the first person so our travels with Emmett could very easily have become a tiresome litany of I I I and that does not happen Emmett stays a provocative character throughout the book Not every character is as fully realized as Emmett and Araxie are but the strength of your interest in the two of them makes up for that lack Good job Mark MustianCongrats to the wily cover designer of The Gendarme You tempted me with your mad skills and it paid off big And By the way how much do you love the word gendarme anyway? Don't you want to keep saying it? Gendarme Great title choice That makes The Gendarme a triple threat terrific novel gorgeous cover and wonderful title PS That cover art reminded me of another recent triple threat novel The Heretic's Daughter Look here my friend They are practically twins

  8. says:

    I can remember when this book first came out and all the hype about itto me it seemed like an over rated book that had hit gold with feel good reviews My immediate response to reading it was Mehit seems overhypedSkip forward six months and it was announced that this was the choice for the live book club I am a part of I was less than thrilled I WAS SO WRONG IT ISN'T EVEN FUNNY This book is so much than what I thought it was going to be Normally in reading I am one to make judgements re the characterssituations very uickly What I love most about this book is that I am ambivelent re the main characterpart of me thinks he is disgusting excuse of a human being as he is coming to the end of his life and reflecting on things done in the past and part of me feels empathy for him I know for me that is a good book I read so uickly that one of the things I periodically miss is being sucked into the story I didn't have the chance to escape that with this book The one piece of advice I can give the reader of this review is that if you choose to read this book either do it in one sitting or have no other books going at the same time As one who normally has numerous books going at one time this is not a book which you can do this with

  9. says:

    45 stars and rounding up because I thought the writing was so powerful and beautiful Very different historical background Turkey and the Armenian deportationsgenocide and a compelling story of one man coming to terms with his history his actions and the one woman he could never forget

  10. says:

    First of all thank you Goodreads First Reads for the opportunity to preview this book With the one hundredth anniversary of the Armenian deportations only a few years away author Mark Mustian has set himself a daunting task to follow his character’s footsteps and to serve as a gendarme a guide in the wilderness For the most part he succeeds admirablyAs Mr Mustian writes in the epilogue “Genocide perhaps represents the ugliest of human deeds the mass killing of often defenseless fellow beingsSaying it didn’t happen is a mere recipe for recurrence”The focus is on one gendarme – a 92 year old Turkish man named Ahmet Kahn on the verge of senility with a non operable brain tumor – who must examine memories of events that he has previously denied or purposely forgotten Many years ago – in World War I – he was a gendarme charged with escorting Armenians across the border from Turkey to Syria Many died from the grueling march and the lack of proper food and shelter and medicineWomen in particular had a tough time of it they were freuently used as the playthings of the Turkish men who have grown hard and bored and demand women to do their physical bidding before killing them One woman captures Ahmet’s attention her name is Araxie and her eyes are her exotica one nearly turuoise one greenish brown Ahmet falls head over heals for her sheltering her from the excesses of the trek that become for all intensive purposes a true genocide Araxie demands of him “Why not just shoot us all now? What is it about us you hate so?” And he must answer impotently “I am only a small piece of the puzzle I have a job to do I did not ask for it nor have I uestioned its rationale” As in books from the past – Sadie Jones’ Small Wars for example or the famous A Separate Peace – Ahmet must eventually realize that his answer is non satisfactory and that his love for Araxie outweighs the senseless slaughterThe novel is divided into two portions the present day where Emmett Conn suffers through mental disorientation hospital confinement and the coldness of his grown daughter and the past where Ahmet Kahn – same person – struggles to survive amidst swollen corpses monstrous murders and clannishness duplicity and trickery As the memories swell in intensity the reader must ask “How much of his memory is true and how much is a product of extreme guilt? What happened and what didn’t?”There are no clear answers But as Mr Mustian writes “The point of the story seemed to be that to think is to forget to filter from the mind the unnecessary I have told myself this repeated it to myself I have called it our gift from God This headstrong heedless survival” At the end of the day love does surviveand so do the never relenting memories Mr Mustain states in his epilogue “Decades on even centuries on our shared history remains vital”