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The Gendarme by Mark T. Mustian
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The Gendarme (original 2010; edition 2010)

by Mark T. Mustian

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2773340,824 (4.01)49
Member:Cariola
Title:The Gendarme
Authors:Mark T. Mustian
Info:Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam (2010), Hardcover, 304 pages
Collections:Your library, General Fiction
Rating:
Tags:Fiction, Armenian Massacre, mrstreme; given away

Work details

The Gendarme by Mark T. Mustian (2010)

Recently added byprivate library, andybaker, djs11014
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    The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat (LCBrooks)
    LCBrooks: Both Dandicat and Mustian do a great job of moving between the past and present while keeping the reader engaged in the story.
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» See also 49 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
I decided to read this book due to the subject matter. As a someone who grew up in Turkey and was taught only "official history" in school and as someone who wants to read and learn about "the other," I think it's hard to find books that are not propaganda one way or another. I think Mustian does a good job in imagining what a Turkish gendarme (jandarma, in Turkish) would feel, then and now. The "lost memory" element was not extremely necessary, in my opinion, and may have made some people feel like it was too contrived. As the Armenians are known for passing down the stories of the horrible things that were done to them during the genocide, the Turks have spent almost a century denying and forgetting them.
In terms of language and writing style and even story, I found the modern day story of the ailing 92-year-old now-American immigrant Emmett Conn far more interesting and well-written than Ahmet's miserable life in 1915. Emmett's relationship to his daughter and grandson, his memories of his recently deceased, ailing wife, his struggles as an immigrant, his life in a institution, his relationship with the other patients... All of this was written very well, with stark images that were crisp and gripping. Emmett's memories of his shameful past were...more sentimental? Perhaps it is this shift in sentimentality that made me wish for more Emmett and less Ahmet? Perhaps also it is hard to write about a love story in the middle of such a horrendous situation without seeming a bit sentimental.
( )
  bluepigeon | Dec 27, 2013 |
The Gendarme by Mark T. Mustian presents an unusual side of the Armenian genocide by the Turks in 1915. There are two parts to the genocide, one is a wholesale killing of Armenian men and the second is a march through the Syrian Desert to Aleppo. This book covers the second part. It is unusual because it told through the new found memories of a Turkish Gendarme. Usually stories like this are told by survivors, fictional of non-fictional.

Emmett Conn aka Ahmet Kahn is 92 years old and has a malignant glioma, a type of brain tumor. He really wants to left alone to die but consents to treatment because of his daughter’s pleas. As the treatment goes on he recovers memories of his life prior to being retired in Wadesboro, Georgia. At first he doesn’t recognize his native language of Turkish. He had learned English in the U.S. and never wanted his children to speak it. Up to now, he could not remember anything of his time in the army or shortly afterwards. The book shifts back and forth from the past to the present skillfully.

Ahmet in his dreams meets Araxie, one of the Armenians being marched out of Turkey into Syria. She has one brown eye and one blue eye and he is captivated by her, at first because of her eyes and later because of her demeanor and behavior. Ahmet’s relationship with Araxie was one of constant change and learning from her.

Ahmet did commit atrocities during the march and the march more than decimated the group. Many were sick, killed or raped. There at first 2,000 Armenians in the group they were left and the numbers dwindled to only 65.

The story flows easily and there is a side story of his first wife and his children. When reading the book, I felt that I wanted to get away from his children. I didn’t feel comfortable with them. I couldn’t figure out my feeling towards his wife, Carol. The ending of the book amazed me.

I highly recommend this book to all who want to learn more about the Armenian Genocide in terms of emotions and memories, regrets, forgiveness and sorrow. ( )
1 vote Carolee888 | Jun 16, 2013 |
Emmett Conn is 92 years old and he has started having seizures and disturbing dreams/flashbacks. His early years are a mystery to him anyway. He awoke in a British hospital in WWI, a Turkish soldier mistakenly picked up after he was severely wounded. That's as far back as he can remember. But now in his dreams he seems to be re-living a past where he was a soldier in charge of a group of Armenian people in what later came to be known as the Armenian genocide. Are these real memories? And what of the beautiful girl with different-colored eyes? Was she real and did he love her?

I feel like this is a very literary book and I should have something very smart and literary to say, but that's just not my style. I can only tell you what I liked and didn't like.

I had never even heard of the Armenian genocide until sometime in the past year or two. It was actually a passing reference here on GoodReads. I left it at that. I'm disappointed in myself. I'll be the first to spout off with how we have to remember the Holocaust so we don't repeat history, but I didn't bother to at least look at Wikipedia and see what happened to the Armenians. And they are in danger of being forgotten. I saw this author (who is of Armenian descent) speak at the Decatur Book Festival, and he said that Hitler, only about 20 years after all this happened, even said something like, "Who even remembers the Armenians?" Shameful.

Anyway.

This book is told from an aggressor's point of view. He personally didn't feel strongly one way or the other about the Armenians, he just wanted to join the army and fight in WWI. Before that could happen, he had to "prove himself" by escorting a group of Armenians to a refugee camp. He's not a terrible person, but even he does a few horrible things. His biggest crime is in letting some of his soldiers do pretty much whatever they want. And they are creatively terrifying. He's only about 17 years old though. Does that excuse it?

Araxie, the girl he dreams of, is a wonderful character. She at least appears to be fearless. When she realizes she has caught Emmett's attention, she doesn't use him for her personal gain. She challenges him to become a better person and to stand up for her people.

In Emmett's present, he is faced with failing health and family that doesn't really care. It's easier to lock him away somewhere than to deal with the reality of his fading health. He loses all say in his own care and becomes powerless. He wants to mend his relationships in the last years of his life, but his family isn't reciprocating. He has become a sad old man.

And this is where I feel like I should insert my smart, literary thing about shades of gray, and voices for the voiceless, but even if I wrote those kinds of reviews, it's been too long since I finished the book for me to really come up with something like that.

I'm glad I read this, and I do recommend it for those who are interested in issues of the Holocaust and genocide. Don't let these people be forgotten. ( )
  JG_IntrovertedReader | Apr 3, 2013 |
Emmett Conn is a man without a past, having suffered a traumatic brain injury during the first World War that left him with only a few scattered memories of the first eighteen years of his life. Mistaken for a British soldier, he was taken to England to recuperate, where he met Carol, an American nurse. He married, had two children, and lived a respectable life. Only after being diagnosed with a brain tumor does Emmett begin to have vivid dreams of a life that he has forgotten for decades, a life in which he is Ahmet Khan, a gendarme participating in genocide in Turkey.

The book is interesting; I have never read, or even heard, much about the Armenian genocide during the first World War (which, I suppose, is often overshadowed by the Holocaust, and which I have studied in much more detail, for the obvious reason of my history). I want to say that the book grabbed me, like it has so many other readers, but sadly, it really didn't. I found myself pushing through some of the chapters. I suppose that I found it nearly impossible to empathize with Emmett/Ahmet, because I went into the story knowing that he was a perpetrator, and I just can't bring myself to like him. Once again, I think that is because of my history.

The book is well-written, and it deals with the often-overlooked genocide of the Armenians. I'd recommend it, but I personally wasn't as drawn into the book as I wish I'd been. ( )
  schatzi | Apr 2, 2012 |
Rivetting historical fiction of the Armenian death marches out of Turkey during WWI. A man who was a gendarme during these marches recovers lost memories of this dark and mostly unknown part of the war through dreams his family thinks are senility. He is an American citizen and does not remember being a Turkish gendarme Ahmet Khan, as he is now 93 year old Emmett Conn living out his last days in Georgia. But through these dreams he remembers an Armenian girl he fell in love with while exiling her along with thousands others into Syria. He is committed to a mental hospital when these dreams spill into real life and he tries to strangle a live-in health assistant. As he comes to realize the part he had not only in this genocide of Armenians but specifically in the life of this woman, he tries to locate her now 70 years later in America. Speaks to the issues of caring for the elderly, perceived mental illness, and brings to light the little known genocide during WWI of Armenians. Interesting way to bridge the past and current, remembered and forgotten experiences, humanity and inhumanity. A good read-Marjorie ( )
  allmccarters | Feb 26, 2012 |
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Epigraph
To the Roaring Wind.
What syllable are you seeking,
Vocalissimus,
In the distances of sleep?
Speak it.

-Wallace Stevens, 1917
Dedication
For Bern
First words
I awake in a whispering ambulance.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0399156348, Hardcover)

A haunting, deeply moving novel-an old man comes face-to-face with his past and sets out to find the love of his life and beg her forgiveness.

To those around him, Emmet Conn is a ninety-two-year-old man on the verge of senility. But what becomes frighteningly clear to Emmet is that the sudden, realistic dreams he is having are memories of events he, and many others, have denied or purposely forgotten. The Gendarme is a unique love story that explores the power of memory-and the ability of people, individually and collectively, to forget. Depicting how love can transcend nationalities and politics, how racism creates divisions where none truly exist, and how the human spirit fights to survive even in the face of hopelessness, this is a transcendent novel.

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(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:34:04 -0400)

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Seen by those around him as a virtually senile nonagenarian, Emmet Conn is haunted by vivid memories of a past he and others deliberately worked to forget, a situation that compels him to seek out the love of his life to beg her forgiveness.

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