Papillon, Paperback Book
5 out of 5 (1 rating)


An immediate sensation upon its publication in 1969, Papillon is a vivid memoir of brutal penal colonies, daring prison breaks and heroic adventure on shark-infested seas. Condemned for a murder he did not commit, Henri Charriere, nicknamed Papillon, was sent to the penal colony of French Guiana.

Forty-two days after his arrival he made his first break for freedom, travelling a thousand gruelling miles in an open boat.

He was recaptured and put into solitary confinement but his spirit remained untamed: over thirteen years he made nine incredible escapes, including from the notorious penal colony on Devil's Island. This edition of Papillon, one of the greatest adventure stories ever told, includes an exclusive new essay by Howard Marks.


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Remarkable true taleI was blown away by this book ... by the strength of character displayed by the author (admittedly not always a character to be unreservedly liked), by the mad adventures he undertook, and by the amazing richness of a life that a court tried to throw into a hole and forget about.There is something so fundamentally heartening about Papillon’s refusal to remain incarcerated for a crime he did not commit (though he ends his tale by admitting that he was a character ripe to be accused of it) that his escape attempts, his adventures, his successes and failures can only be followed with a mixture of – if not always approval – admiration and whole-hearted hope that things should end well for him. Despite some flaws of character and a style of writing that descends here and there into occasional egotistical self-approval, one cannot help agreeing with the friends of Papillon who declare him worthy of loyalty and every help in his escape attempts. The brutal harshness of the French penal system, the incredible richness of life that he encounters on his breaks, the amazing friendships that he forges, the moments of genuine horror that he witnesses are described vividly and with a well-paced flair for narrative that isn’t lost with translation. Papillon may – like any person – have been capable of blunt actions and mistakes, but his credit lies in the fact that, in the face of such dismal prospect, he tried to remain a man who considered what was honourable while refusing to compromise his single-minded goal… to be free.

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