Papillon is an autobiography written by Henri Charrière, first published in France on 30 April 1969. Papillon is Charrière’s nickname, deriving from a butterfly tattoo inscribed on his chest. The novel details Papillon’s incarceration and subsequent escape from the French penal colony of French Guiana, and covers a 14-year period between 1931 and 1945.
A beautiful tattoo of a butterfly engraved on the chest of Henri Charriere, the author, and the protagonist, gave him the name Papillon.The books take us through the daring adventures of Papillon (the author himself) as he makes nine death-defying escapes from the penal settlements of French Guiana in eleven years.
The book also explores the human relations Papillon shared with his cell mates. He was heavy handed with sods but befriended his prison mates easily. He learned to live with the rogues, the dreaded convicts who hacked at moment’s provocation but he never abandoned the meek and the suffering. Papillon made good friends with staff of the prisons where he was grounded (the warders and the gendarmes). They were never repulsed by his obstinacy to break, believed in his innocence and respected his dream to live as a free man. It was this trust that enlivened his spirits and increased his strength to keep his sanity in the lowest ebbs of confinement.
The pages crawl with fascinating characters of the underworld, each with their own vivid story. Papillon records it all with the utmost humanity though there can be no doubt that he’s one hard man.
I would rate this book 3.5/5