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Papillon by Henri Charrière
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Papillon (1969)

by Henri Charriere

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Having seen the famous movie so many years ago with Steve McQueen in a great performance I thought I would take a shot at the book. I wanted to get it at my local library and all they had were two versions, one in French and one in Spanish. How about English I asked. Months later one finally surfaced. Overall I thought the book was well written and quite the adventure yarn. But with these first person narratives I always wonder how embellished they are.

One thing for sure was the movie cut out a lot of the book material and seemed to reshuffle the order of events somewhat. It is hard to believe a man could survive what he went through for so long a time while so many around him went down. But it is a testimony to the power of the human spirit when it focuses on getting to the one thing many of us hold as the ultimate objective in life, freedom. ( )
  knightlight777 | Apr 15, 2014 |
Naysayers jumped on Henri Charriere's, aka Papillon, autobiography from the start, calling into question the truth of his harrowing tales of escapes and captures from a penal colony in French Guiana in the 1930s and 40s. The adventures detailed here may in fact not all be those of Papillon. Perhaps Charriere did synthesize the cavales of many other bagnards and claim them all as his own. But that should not really detract from the harrowing adventures contained in this book. They convey a truth about the brutality of the French justice system of a century ago, the capacities of man to be cruel and to suffer, but beyond everything the desire to be free, at any cost. After fourteen years Papillon did achieve that. We may never know the truth for sure. But we have one hell of an enjoyable book (and movie) to remember this remarkable (if somewhat unreliable) man by. ( )
  OccassionalRead | Sep 10, 2013 |
A rousing tale of adventure that gives the account of the only man ever to escape from Devil's Island. There has been questions over the years about the book's authenticity, but -- true or false -- it's perfect escapist fare (pun intended.) ( )
  hayduke | Apr 3, 2013 |
French Guiana.

Eh. As long as you understand it's fiction (in the style made famous by [b:A Million Little Pieces|1241|A Million Little Pieces|James Frey|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1157865754s/1241.jpg|3140930]) it's interesting enough, though it's picaresque and there's really no developmental self-reflection. There is more insertion into and extraction of objects from the anus than in much pornography. Really, it's enough to make you rethink shaking hands with the guy.

Poor Papillon, who protests his innocence while evincing a startling degree of criminal knowledge and underworld relationships, periodically becomes enraged and spews angry fantasies. Yeah, I'd let him into my house. If you want to see the basis for the movie, read this. If you want to read a prison narrative, there are better, and more true to life. ( )
  OshoOsho | Mar 30, 2013 |
A difficult book to read and I would have abandoned it had it not been the choice for the book club. I know that some people enjoyed it and some have even found it inspirational - I found it boring and tedious. And I dont care if Steve Mcqueen was in the movie, that didnt make me hate it any less.

In principal, it should be a great book: Man imprisoned for a crime he didnt commit, escapes from one penal colony, has a great time on an island pretending to be something he's not, gets captured again, incarcerated again, years of solitary confinment, the rations and abuse that prisoners get, to be let go as an old man, long after his original sentence has finised.

Oh but such tedious writing! The boredom! Page after page of this drivel! Again I dont know whether this is down to the original writer or the translator (quite a few of the books I've had trouble finishing have been written in another language first).
1 vote nordie | Aug 24, 2011 |
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To the Venezuelan people,
to the humble fisherman in the Gulf of Paria,
to everybody-the intellectuals, the military
and all the others-who gave me a chance
to live again,

and to Rita, my wife and dearest friend.
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It was a knockout blow--a punch so overwhelming that I didn't get back on my feet for fourteen years.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061120669, Paperback)

Henri Charrière, 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.

Charrière's astonishing autobiography, Papillon, was published in France to instant acclaim in 1968, more than twenty 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:53:28 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Condemned for a murder he had not committed, Henri Charrie??re (nicknamed Papillon) was sent to the penal colony of French Guiana. 42 days after his arrival he made his first break for freedom. Recaptured, he was sent to Devil's Island, a hell-hole of disease & brutality. In 13 years he made nine daring escapes.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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