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(Papillon #1)

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  49,327 ratings  ·  1,762 reviews
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 notorio ...more
Paperback, 544 pages
Published August 1st 2006 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published 1969)
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4.24  · 
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 ·  49,327 ratings  ·  1,762 reviews

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Sep 11, 2007 rated it really liked it
My mother knew Papillon and another one of the characters in the book (Francoise). He was a customer of my uncle's restaurant Il Padrino, in Venezuela, back in the 60's,70's (after this story was told). My brother was just an infant/toddler at this time and they would take turns throwing him in the air, swinging him, etc.. I told this guy Neil about this and he was shocked that my family knew this guy. He had read the book and loved it so much. So as a gift, he gave me a copy of the book.

This b
Ahmad Sharabiani
Papillon, Henri Charrière
Henri Charrière (16 November 1906 – 29 July 1973) was a French writer, convicted as a murderer by the French courts. In jail he wrote the famous novel Papillon, a memoir of his incarceration in and escape from a penal colony in French Guiana. While Charrière claimed that Papillon was largely true, modern researchers believe that much of the book’s material came from other inmates, rather than Charrière himself. Charrière denied committing the murder, although he freely
Andrew Smith
Jan 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I read this book in the mid 70's, as a teenager. Then I read it again. And then, a little while later, I saw the film. The three events have subsequently blended into one and I certainly now have difficulty differentiating the book from the film. But that's no big deal as I know the film followed the written narrative pretty closely. It's a true story of one man's battle against injustice and the terrible personal consequences that transpired.

It left a big impression on me. It was a big story. A
Luís C.
A homage to the will to survive. In October 1932, the then twenty-five-year-old Henri Charrière was charged with murdering a pimp. Papillon, so his nickname is sentenced to life imprisonment and sent to Cayenne, in French Guiana. After a short time he tries to break out for the first time. The attempt fails, one of a total of ten breakout attempts, until finally, after thirteen painful years, he finally manages to escape.
Papillon (butterfly) claims his innocence but that does not matter. Beyond
Steven Godin
Aug 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: france, non-fiction
One can only presume Henri Charriere (Papillon, or simply Papi to inmates) was a cat in a previous life, and was still blessed with nine lives in this, believe me he needed all of them. Nine death-defying escapes from the brutal penal settlements of French Guiana in eleven years, pushing his stubborn body to the brink each time, wow!, now that's quite something, how it was even possible for a man of flesh and bone not to die a hundred deaths whilst also going round the bend is beyond me. He woul ...more
Dec 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a story! Papillon is an autobiographical novel about a man who in 1931 was charged with killing someone (of course, the author claims he was innocent) and he was sentenced to a life of hard labor at a penal colony in French Guiana.

After many weeks of planning, he managed to escape on a raft and sailed hundreds of miles to Colombia. He spent several months living happily in a fishing village -- with not one but two wives! -- but he was eventually picked up by the authorities and sent back t

Description: 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
Aaron Arnold
Mar 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, read-in-2011
I don't care if this book wasn't a 100% factual, honest-to-God documentary account of what actually happened to this guy - it was a magnificent adventure novel, full of blood and drama and action. From what I can tell, Charrière cobbled the narrative out of his own experiences as a prisoner in the pitiless camps of 1930s French Guyana, plus the stories of a few camp-mates, plus his own dramatic license, emerging with a masterpiece. There were many moments where the story is less than totally pla ...more
Feb 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction-i-own
I wavered a bit on my 4* rating but in the end I decided it's such a great adventure that I'm sure I won't forget - so four stars it is. I've seen in other review there is some question in the authenticity, (and I did think that some of Papillon's adventures were over-the-top, especially making it so far in the sea on coconuts!) but I guess I don't care because it is great storytelling. I do think some of the book is a bit repetitive and a bit long but overall I really enjoyed it. Now I really h ...more
Layla ✷ Praise the sun ✷
I had a hard time to believe a lot of the stuff in this memoir and was hardly surprised when I read that a lot of it was actually invented or had in reality happened not to Charrière but to his inmates.

Papillon was interesting as a narrative novel transmitting a message about the French punitive system back at that time, but even though Charrière could almost get philisophical at times, I personally couldn't get myself to like him at all and the plot was repetitive.
Charrière seemed rather full
Dec 08, 2006 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Adventure Novel lovers
This book is incredible. It is the TRUE story of a prison break from a penal colony in French Guiana which was later made into a movie with Steve McQueen--another of my favorites. If you liked Shawshank, you'll love Papillon.

Henri Charrier, called Papillon for the butterfly tattoo on his chest, was convicted in Paris in 1931 for a murder he did not convict and was shipped off to French Guiana. It takes years and several failed attempts for Papillion to escape in this nail-biting story of amazin
Jun 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Wow! yes
Its my favorite book till date. One word for it - WOW..Its just amazing and the way the author has described the life of a man in the prisons is amazing. Its wonderful how he tells this man's story spanning so many years. I saw this movie as a kid..I must be very young then maybe class 5 or younger..and ever since then I had a desire in me to read this book whenever I get a chance.

Papillon means butterfly and it symbolises the protagonists' desire to get free from the clutches of jail. The vivi
16/6 - Knowing nothing about this book or Charrière, only knowing the word papillon and it's English translation through the fact that there's a dog breed that's called papillon because the dog's fluffy ears (vaguely) resemble a butterfly's wings, I picked this up off the 'new and recently returned' shelf because the blurb on the back described it as "A classic memoir of prison breaks and adventure". And 'adventure' sounded like the right genre for me at that moment in time. I read the translato ...more
Aug 27, 2007 rated it it was ok
Papillon was an enjoyable enough summer read; it was just a little hard to suspend my disbelief at times for a supposedly nonfiction endeavor. I was unsurprised to see in my post-reading research that large portions the story were disputed and that several of Charriere's fellow inmates have claimed over the years that he incorporated the experiences of other would-be escapees and presented them as his own story. I guess this book was a precursor of sorts to A Million Little Pieces in that both a ...more
Mar 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-books, favorites
So fascinating, haunting; you feel the pain and ecstasy. No escape till the last page, you sail along all 'Cavale' with them.

Even though the author is silent all throughout the novel, on the plot of his conviction for murder in France except by saying that he was innocent, we really feel that he was really innocent. This, the author succeeds to prove through various instances in the novel. We also feel many occasions unbelievable where we see he is recognized instantly, and many show sympathy to
Jan 29, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It's been a while since I cried "uncle" but today I had to do it again. In the past several years I have suffered through William Gibson's Spook Country AND - yes, I believe I may be a glutton for punishment - Zero History (a novel about...jeans?). I did my best to stay awake through Kazuo Ishiguro's galactically dull Never Let Me Go (but please, I do so want to let you go). I forced my way through The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (next time, YOU take it). Waded through Wicked, clumped through ...more
Wayne Barrett
I was disappointed with this one. I added it based on memory of the old 70's classic starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman and maybe for that reason my expectations were too high.

There were a couple of intense parts to the story, so I will at least give this a 2, but overall, the story ran on, seeming to repeat itself with similar encounters. The translation may be to blame, but I thought the writing was amateurish. Henri Charriere was writing about his own encounter in escaping the French
Hesamul Haque
May 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Never give up the fight, and that even when there seems no way out the way of the warrior, win or lose, is the correct way.
Books are such a wonderful thing that it teaches you all and me being very curious, we have become best friends now.
This was one of the best autobiographies I have ever read. The determination of papillon is beyond explanation. The tattoo on his chest of a papillon really meant something, he was never meant to be caged. An awesome journey, many things to learn from and wil
Bernard Doffay
Feb 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-books
What an amazing story!!! It is questionable as to what is true and what is not...many people have poked holes in Henri's story since its publication. However, still a fantastic book that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys a good old school adventure story of daring prison breaks and survival even when all seems lost. Since reading this book, I eat a coconut nearly everyday and think of the author in his little 3x3
I. Merey
Damn, but I love the 'redemption' genre! I'm sure there's an official genre title, but that's what I call it. You know the deal: 'Shawshank Redemption', 'A Million Little Pieces', 'Shantaram'.
...The protagonist is thrown into jail (or a mental institution)... often on a drummed up charge. Fighting tooth and nail to survive incarceration with the spirit intact, hungering to escape and punish those who put them there to begin with.

OR the book starts right after the jail-break, and the protag wants
Jul 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
I have been meaning to read this book for a long time so I decided to tackle the 600+ pages this week.
I loved the film and enjoyed the book almost as much. I have read that there is a debate as to how much of the story is Charriere's own experiences but nevertheless it makes a great read.
Even though some of the adventures do take a lot of believing he obviously lived an extraordinary life and this book is well worth reading.
Marcio Tomazela
Oct 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is the Best book I ever read.

I remember I started to read it when I was 14, and during long travels to sorocaba city I used to read a little of it, getting back in favourite parts.

Henri Charrière did something completally amazing. Not one, but two: First was the escaping itself, from Devil Island.. secound was to describle this with perfect details, something that makes us imagine each movement and each scene...

His passion for life made he survive to a unfair punishment and escape from many
Stephen Robert Collins
Jul 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I read this long time ago but even now I can still visualise this book it slow dark grasping atmosphere .
If never read it you enjoy it's autobiographical description & this came out long before Shawshank or the Green mile .I was only 15 when read this & it's sequal Banko it is like Swing Hammer Swing by Jeffrey Torrington or Angles Ashes.
The Dustin Hoffman & Steve McQueen movie was not bad too.
But like Q & A which end up as Slumdog Millionaire this book is much better.
Sep 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, nonfiction
550 pages of prison escapes. Exciting, but wow, so many failed attempts. I figure if Papillon lived through 14 years of horror, the least I can do is read his 550 pages of escapes. He's certainly an example of "do not go gentle."
Absolutely fantastic read, what this man goes through is unbelievable.
Honestly gets you from the 1st page and never let’s go.
 Linda (Miss Greedybooks)
Sep 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bio
I wanted to read this book so badly - I was in 7th grade, my sister wanted to take drivers education. She did not want to ride her bike alone, so she bribed me. Allowing me to read on the church steps while I waited for her lesson to be over. BUT I GOT TO READ THE BOOK! I really liked it. The descriptions were so vivid, the story so gripping. I do not know where my sister got the book, I seriously doubt she had read it. OMG Epiphany! It was my dad's book! He gave it to her to bribe me with so sh ...more
I 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 hi
Neeleisch G
Dec 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourite
One of the best Non Fiction Memoir I have ever read till date. A gripping tale of inhuman tortures, an endless story of survival, a brutal fate after escaping each and every prison before recapturing again, horrific days and nights with the other deadly prisoners, surviving in the infirmary without food and water for several days counting the each and last second which gonna pass by very slowly.

All the above cruel conditions were for innocent Henry Charrier affectionately known as Papillon - A b
Oct 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Imagine being..
Imprisoned to rot for a crime you had not committed.
Framed by the law and frustrated by such injustice.
Fueled by vengeance with an undying hope of freedom.

This book puts Prison Break (the series) to shame. Prison stories are my guilty pleasure. I simply can't get enough of them. No wonder that my all-time favorite book is The Count of Monte Cristo. There's something magnetic about prisons that attracts me in a heartbeat. Do you feel the same? Join the club. Papillon by Henri Ch
Paul Gaya Ochieng Simeon Juma
‘Dear Papillon, you’ve done everything humanly possible to get back your freedom. Fate has been cruel to you. All that is left is for you to blow up the prison.’

Freedom, that is what Papillon was born to fight for. Talk about purpose and destiny. Clyde Griffith was born to fight for class and prestige in the American Tragedy. We are all born for something, how we fight to get them, to reach them, is up to us.

But it is your God given right to fight for what is yours. Whether love, freedom, wealth
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Henri Charrière was a convicted murderer chiefly known as the author of Papillon, a hugely successful memoir of his incarceration in and escape from a penal colony on French Guiana.

Other books in the series

Papillon (2 books)
  • Banco: The Further Adventures of Papillon
“We have too much technological
progress, life is too hectic, and our society has only one goal: to invent
still more technological marvels to make life even easier and better.
The craving for every new scientific discovery breeds a hunger for
greater comfort and the constant struggle to achieve it. All that kills the
soul, kills compassion, understanding, nobility. It leaves no time for
caring what happens to other people, least of all criminals. Even the
officials in Venezuela's remote areas are better for they're also
concerned with public peace. It gives them many headaches, but they
seem to believe that bringing about a man's salvation is worth the
effort. I find that magnificent.”
“I’ve known this a long time, because when Napoleon III created the bagnes and was asked: “But who will guard these bandits?” he answered: “Worse bandits.” 19 likes
More quotes…