Sunday, January 13, 2013

Finlandia to host documentary, author visit for Campus Read selection

HANCOCK -- Finlandia University will introduce its spring 2013 Campus Read selection at 4:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 15,  with a screening of the documentary film The
Armenian Genocide
at the university’s Chapel of St. Matthew, Hancock.

The event is free and open to the public.

The Campus Read selection, The Gendarme, by Mark T. Mustian, is a novel set alternately in early 20th-century Turkey and in the U.S. in the 1990s.

Mustian will be on the Finlandia campus Feb. 11 and 12, 2013, to speak in several classes and engage in other campus and community activities. His visit is sponsored by Finlandia University and the Lutheran Writers Project at Roanoke College.

Mustian will present a public lecture titled "Words and War" at 4:15 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 11, at Finlandia’s Maki Library. Also, Mustian will speak on the topic "Where is God?" at 12:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 12, in the Chapel of St. Matthew.

Additional Campus Read 2013 activities include a student writing contest with the theme "Forgotten" and a public panel discussion about the cruelties of armed conflict and war later this spring.

"The Finlandia University Campus Read Committee found Mr. Mustian’s novel rich with opportunity for poignant and pertinent classroom discussion," said Terri Martin, assistant to the executive vice-president for academic and student affairs and a member of the committee.

To those around him The Gendarme’s protagonist, World War I Turkish veteran Emmet Conn, is a senile 92-year-old man, notes a book synopsis on the author’s website. Conn has been affected by memory loss since being injured in the war. Now, at the end of his life, he’s beset by frightening dreams and visions and he becomes convinced that they are actual memories of events he and others have denied or purposely forgotten. In the dreams, Conn is a gendarme escorting Armenian women and children from Turkey. A young woman among them, Araxie, captivates him and becomes the love of his life. But when the trek ends, the war separates them. Seven decades later, Conn sets out to find Araxie and beg her forgiveness. The Ottoman Empire’s systematic extermination of ethnic Armenians from their homeland in what is now Turkey came to be known as the Armenian Genocide or the Armenian Holocaust. It was implemented in two phases, during and after World War I: the wholesale killing of the able-bodied male population through massacre and forced labor, then the deportation of women, children, the elderly and infirm on death marches to the Syrian Desert. The total number killed is estimated at between 1 and 1.5 million.

When Mustian, who has Armenian ancestors, learned of the fate of these people and of those who survived the forced trek into Syria by Turkish soldiers, he recalls that he was mesmerized. How could this horrible thing have happened? Mustian asked himself. And why do so few know anything about it?

As Mustian began to read survivors’ stories and history books, he learned of Turkey's denial that this occurred; and he learned that to speak of the Armenian deaths as genocide remains a crime in Turkey to this day. Eventually, he began to write The Gendarme, a novel about the deportations told from the point of view of one of the policemen, the gendarmes, who escorted these groups from the country.

Mark T. Mustian is an author, attorney, and retired city commissioner. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida, with his wife, three children, and dog. He is the current chair of the Lutheran Readers Project, a nationwide effort to connect readers and writers associated with the Lutheran faith. Mustian’s fiction has been published widely. Visit his website at

The Gendarme (Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, 2010) is available for purchase at North Wind Books and will also be available for purchase at public events during Mark Mustian’s visit to campus.

For additional information, please contact Terri Martin at 906-487-7512 or

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