Henri Charriere, called "Papillon" for the butterfly tattoo on his chest, was convicted in Paris in 1931 of a murder he did not commit. Sentenced to life imprisonment in the penal colony of French Guiana, he became obsessed with one goal: escape. After planning and executing a series of treacherous yet failed attempts over many years, he was eventually sent to the notorious prison Devil's Island, a place from which no one had ever escaped - until Papillon. His flight to freedom remains one of the most incredible feats of human cunning, will, and endurance ever undertaken.
Papillon, Charriere's astonishing autobiography, was published in France to instant acclaim in 1968, more than 20 years after his final escape. Since then, it has become a treasured classic - the gripping, shocking, ultimately uplifting odyssey of an innocent man who would not be defeated.
©1970 Henri Charriere (P)2012 HarperCollins Publisher
Although this is an autobiography, it reads like a novel. I loved reading this book. But once again it highlights the fact that humans can be the most vicious and mean species on the face of the earth. Papillon was not perfect, in fact he did some pretty bad things, but he did not commit the murder he was accused of, and for which he was sent to prison for life. Not just prison, but hard labor, with long stretches of solitary confinement in which he could talk to no one, ask for nothing, and never even see the sun. Papillon tried to escape 10 times and was totally successful the first time. If he hadn't decided he wanted to live somewhere else, he would never have been found and been reimprisoned. I remember seeing the movie with Steve McQueen years ago, and now I want to see it again.
More than anything else, this book taught me to never give up no matter how bleak the outlook. Some days I really need to remember that lesson.
I was a little "if-y" about Michael Prichard as a narrator at first, but I came to realize that his style and vocal characteristics are perfect for this story. Highly recommended.
It's been a while for me since I last find a precious gem like this book. After reading a few good books from Blaisse Pascal, Alexandre Dumas, other stories become pale. I bought the book after some hearty recommendation, which I hope so much to be able to spread it further. Reading this book I realized that human drama when real would never fail to touch. The author has a rather simple style of telling things. On the other hand, he's observation must have been exceptional, making it possible for him to bring out tiny but psychologically penetrating details.
More than once while listing to the book, I had to stop. The emotion it conveyed overwhelmed me. It forced me to slow down and ponder. I resume the listening once I get over it. Surely the life of Papillion must have been full of pain, physical and emotional kinds; even though his story is filled with love and kindness. There were fewer words on the suffering compared to the human experience Papillion wanted to share with the reader. His survival must have a lot to do with this nature in him. The civilized French society failed him in a brutal way, yet he had not failed in embracing the kindness in human nature.
What more can be said about the power of a story, if it succeeds in making me feel this way given that I watched the movie and fully know the story upfront? Indeed, there's no recommendation that could do this book justice. Find it out for yourself!
This is a fantastic book! Just remember that it is from a different time and a different "world" from our own. Henri takes you through a journey as he experiences it. Thank God most of us will never have comparable experiences! Many elements of humanity and inhumanity fill the pages and introduce modern readers to a life that was rarely written about in its day. I first read Papillion almost twenty years ago and some of the imagery and conflict still surfaces from time to time in my thoughts. A very impactful book!
Let's face it, these authors aren't paying me, so there's no need to lie!!
This is a good story. It's translated, so at times the English can be a bit all over the place. There was only one real issue I had, and it's a big one... EVERYONE wanted to be this guy's friend. I don't mean everyone INSIDE prison; actually, that's where the only real tension (best action) takes place. I mean, when this guy escapes, he tells everyone he meets that he's a DANGEROUS escaped convict, and EVERYONE bends over backwards to help him!!
They will say things like:
"Here, take my food that I was going to feed my family with!"
"Here, go sleep with my sister. Oh, she's not your type? Well, here, take my wife."
"Here, take my only boat, that I use for fishing, to feed my family!!"
It may sound like I'm kidding, but trust me, I'm not. It got to be ridiculous. He didn't have to threaten people on the outside, they were just unbelievably eager to help him in any way possible. I don't know if it's just the age we're living in, but I'd venture a guess that around 5% of people would willingly assist a person that approached them and said "Hello, I'm a dangerous escaped con. How's your day going?" Most people would run and/or call the police. In this book, literally 100% of the non-police people he comes across want to help him, and even risk their own lives to do so!
I wanted so badly to like this book, but it is just so unbelievable, I found myself laughing and shaking my head at parts that were clearly not meant to be funny. It's a shame, because there aren't many books out there about escaped cons that have escaped multiple times.
Narrator is excellent. Translation is ok, not great.
"If 'tis a sin, I don't give a Fiddler's fart!" -Frank McCourt.
Henri Charriere definitely knows how to embelish a story. I believe that most of his accounts were greatly exaggerated or made up.
Despite the fact that he kept publicizing he was a convicted murderer did not stop complete strangers from helping, giving him money and all sorts of presents. Nuns, Priests and Cardinals were going out of their way to hide or help him escape. Local Indian women threw themselves at him (Sisters, if you don't mind) Prison Wardens helped in his escape, other prisoners fatally endangering their lives to sneak him food while in isolation. He even got lepers to give him a boat loaded supplies. Wardens wives had nothing but compliments and lust for him.
Like, who the hell is this guy, right?
Let's not forget that he was also an adroit Sailor, Gardener, Fisherman and tattoo Artist...
The only thing this strory is missing is a couple of Mermaids riding pink unicorns.
This book should've been published as a work of fiction.
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