Papillon by Henri Charrière

I have read quite a few good books recently, but I found Papillon by Henri Charrière to be particularly compelling.

Charrière is a convicted felon and fugitive and he describes Papillon as an autobiographical novel. The title is based on Charrière’s nickname; papillon which is the French word for ‘butterfly’, he has a butterfly tattoo on his chest.

Charrière stated that the happenings in the book are honest and accurate, making allowances for lapses in memory, but there has been controversy over the accuracy of the story and time frames fitting events and places he mentions. However, this didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book at all, some parts do feel far fetched and exaggerated, but that adds to the adventure and I don’t think it matters if it’s real or not, it’s a tale of one man’s never ending determination for freedom.

The book was first published in 1969 and translated from French to English a year later. In 1973, Henri Charrière died aged 66, in this same year Papillon was adapted into a film starring Steve McQueen as Henri Charrière and Dustin Hoffman as Louis Dega, as well as Charrière’s sequel titled Banco being published.

Papillon is a tale covering his life from 1931 to 1945, starting with his conviction for murder in France and his subsequent jail time and escapes. The book is full of apprehension, peril and anticipation.

I’m looking forward to watching the film and reading the sequel!

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