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Condemned for a murder he had not committed, Henri Charriere (nicknamed Papillon) was sent to the penal colony of French Guiana. Forty-t wo days after his arrival he made his first break, travelling a thousand gruelling miles in an open boat. Recaptured, he suffered a solitary confinement and was sent eventually to Devil's Island, a hell-hole of disease and brutality. No one had ever escaped from this notorious prison - no one until Papillon took to the shark infested sea supported only by a makeshift coconut-sack raft. In 13 years he made nine daring escapes, living through many fantastic adventures while on the run - including a sojourn with South American Indians whose women Papillon found welcomely free of European restraints. This book is Henry Charriere's memoir of prison breaks and more

Product details

  • Paperback | 688 pages
  • 110 x 176 x 48mm | 358.34g
  • HarperCollins Publishers
  • Flamingo
  • London, United Kingdom
  • French
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • 0007115245
  • 9780007115242

Review Text

Can one million Frenchmen be wrong? This strapping, picaresque autobiography of Papillon, loosely remembered and recorded a quarter of a century after the fact, is an endemic escape story as for some 13 years he attempted to make his way to freedom from the penal colony on French Guiana of which Devil's Island is a part. Charriere was sentenced, wrongly he insists, in 1932 for the murder of a pimp-informer in Montmartre and before he even reached the so ironically named Iles du Salut, he had 5600 francs smuggled high up his colon. Part of it paid his way into the hospital from which he engineered his first cavale through the jungle, with the help of some benevolent lepers, and there out to sea in a small boat. He reached Trinidad and Curacao, stayed seven months with some Colombian Indians reputedly savage but actually friendly (particularly two young girls) and eventually was betrayed by a Mother Superior in a Convent. He dynamited the jail in Colombia where he was momentarily detained before he was sent back to solitary ("la mangeuse d'hommes") which he was one of the few to survive. He returned to the convict colony to kill a man, to serve part of his sentence on the Diable, and to make his final escape. "Incorrigible" - indestructible rather and likable as well - even if he has appropriated (as recently alleged) certain experiences which may not have been exclusively his. But, no doubt about it, much machismo. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Rating details

42,221 ratings
4.22 out of 5 stars
5 45% (19,116)
4 37% (15,459)
3 15% (6,182)
2 3% (1,118)
1 1% (346)
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