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Papillon (P.S.) Paperback – August 1, 2006

4.6 out of 5 stars 220 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A modern classic of courage and excitement."-- Janet Flanner, "The New Yorker"The greatest adventure story of all time."-- Auguste Le Breton"A first-class adventure story."--"New York Review of Books

Language Notes

Text: English, French (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: P.S.
  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (August 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061120669
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061120664
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (220 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #22,083 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bill Slocum VINE VOICE on January 5, 2004
Format: Paperback
When Henri Charriere finds himself sent to a French prison colony for a crime he did not commit, he makes up his mind to go on a "cavale," literally to beat it and escape the custody of his captors. Like the butterfly (or in French "Papillon") which Charriere has tattooed to his chest, he will live his life in freedom or not at all. When a doctor questions him about his repeated escape attempts, Papillon's reply is matter-of-fact: "I don't belong here - I'm only visiting."

"Papillon" takes a while to get started, and Charriere's elusive and terse tone keeps one from feeling too close to the narrator. He tells you he didn't kill the man the police claim he did, but credits himself for not being a stool pigeon by telling them who did. So he's not exactly Dreyfus here, though he pretends otherwise at times. He mentions a wife and child in the outset almost as afterthoughts, then scarcely refers to them again. No false modesty for this guy - he runs the roost in every clink he is assigned, dispensing wisdom to prisoner and warden alike. No physical challenge is too much for him to overcome, no fellow "mec" too much for him to handle.

Let's put it this way: If Charriere is selling bridges, I ain't buying. But if this is more fiction than fact, "Papillon" still makes for one amazing novel. With minimal pretense at craft, Charriere crafts a white-knuckle, plain-spoken suspense tale that finds our hero in every imaginable predicament - and some not at all imaginable - as he makes attempt after attempt to escape the hell on earth that is French Guiana, the three Iles du Salut (literally "Isles of Salvation"), and ultimately Devil's Island.
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Format: Paperback
The thing that Henri Charriere desired most was his freedom. A French prisoner, he never stopped plotting ways to escape. The only time when he didn't have a plan in motion was when he was either in solitary, or upon personal request of the warden (they would request that he didn't escape so that they could finish their term, and not have their record/pension ruined by his escape).

This autobiography spares no details about the violence and horrors that surrounded the prisoners daily. He loses a number of his friends to disease, or murder. Papillon was generally respected by his fellow prisoners, and the administration. He was quick to criticize the administration to their face. Many of the wardens and doctors even agreed with how screwed up the French justice system was.

Henri is very detailed about his experiences and escapes. He remembers well the people who aided him before, during and after an escape. You will find yourself rooting for Henri with each escape attempt!

There has been some criticism that say that Henri took details from other prisoners' accounts or that some of the anecdotes are made up. Regardless, this autobiographical tale of escape is better than any work of prison escape fiction that can ever be written.
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Great book. Part novel. Part autobiography. Thrilling, compulsive and picturesque. But this is a truly terrible translation. It tries to emulate penal colony slang but fails. Get the UK version with the padlock/butterfly on the cover. It's by Patrick O'Brien (Master and Commander etc)
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Format: Paperback
During my 10 years of reading i've read countless adventure stories, some where good others were excelant and some were bad but none even comes close to "Papillon". the debated question wether the story is true or not is hardly relevant, (althought i simply don't believe someone can make up tales in this level of authenticy and realism) this book is impossible to put down and the reader is sucked into Charriere's world within the first page.

If you can read only one book ,definitely read "Pappillon".
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Format: Paperback
Papillon is the most moving true account of a time in a life I have had the luck to read. I have read all the reviews both here and on the UK site. Though it is the final word on perseverance, this is not the beauty of this book. No, it is not the narration, nor even the man himself or the breadth and depth of his adventures (though awesome). For me, it is the clear message that friendship is the greatest gift a person can have and give. It is friendship that allowed him to escape, to realize his dreams, to write his story. Where would he be without the kind Priest, how would he have planned the escape without Sierra, and what can you feel but shame (as did Papillon!) after the generosity of the lepers - how wholesome they seemed in their nature if not in their bodies. The examples are endless ( unlike this review - luckily! ) but the lesson is singular and clear.
This book is inspirational - no doubt - its inspiration is to gain self-esteem, to fortify yourself against those that would climb your walls to pull you down, but, above all, it is to be human to others around you. The inhumanity suffered by Papillon and others like him were at the hands of those who could not feel for others as Papi and his friends felt for others.
I read that one reviewer tattooed a butterfly on his chest in honour of Henri Charriere, for me, his story is tattooed on my mind. I think of his story and his friends as often as I do my own. The only other equally moving account of the power of friendship is "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck.
My friends, those who have read the book and those thinking about it - all the best!
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