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Papillon (Harper Perennial Modern Classics) Paperback – 3 May 2005


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Papillon (Harper Perennial Modern Classics) + Banco: The Further Adventures of Papillon + Papillon [DVD] [1973] [1974]
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Product details

  • Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; New Ed edition (3 May 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007179960
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007179961
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (143 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 13,665 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

From the Back Cover

Condemned for a murder he had not committed, Henri Charriere (nicknamed Papillon) was sent to the penal colony of French Guiana. Forty-two 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 thirteen 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…

'Papillon' is filled with tension, adventure and high excitement. It is also one of the most vivid stories of human endurance ever written.

Henri Charriere died in 1973 at the age of 66.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

In 1931, 25-year-old Henri Charriere was found guilty of a murder he had not committed and transported to a penal colony in French Guiana. His numerous daring escapes and subsequent adventures are recounted in ‘Papillon’ (1969) and ‘Banco: The Further Adventures of Papillon’ (1973). He died in 1973 at the age of 66.


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IT WAS A KNOCKOUT BLOW-a punch so overwhelming that I didn't get back on my feet for fourteen years. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By William Mason TOP 500 REVIEWER on 24 July 2014
Format: Paperback
I'm quite sure I've read over a thousand books during the last 40 odd years. I've no doubt this is the best book I've ever read in my life. I have now read it three times, once at the age of 12, again at the age of 30, and most recently at the age of 43. Each time the book was fantastic and enthralling. Papillon is wrongly charged with the murder of a pimp, gets convicted, sentenced to life imprisonment, and shipped out to the Hell hole of Devil's Island in French Guiana. Papillon befriends several fellow cons, including a master fraudster named Degas, and makes numerous thrilling escape attempts through the inhospitable swamps and jungles. He has a nerve-shredding encounter with a group of lepers, who take a liking to him, and assist him in one of his escapes. He finds a tropical island paradise where he befriends a tribe's leader, and becomes involved with one of the local women. What is most gripping, is his depiction of his hatred for the men responsible for his imprisonment. He fantasises about what he will do to his prosecutor if he ever finds him. He paces his small cell back and forth, over and over again, countless times, his sheer frustration and desperation about the unfairness of what has happened to him, leaps out at you from each page, you feel that you are sat there right next to him on his bed, it is really that involving. This book has been about for close to 50 years now and it is truly a masterpiece. A film based on the book was made in the 1970's with Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman, which was a decent stab at translating the book onto the big screen, but simply nowhere near as good as the novel. I can't recommend this book highly enough, it is constantly gripping and moving, and from the first to last page, you find yourself rooting for Papillon and hoping that his life will turn out okay.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Stupot on 14 July 2005
Format: Paperback
This is simply one of my favourite books and a must read for anyone with a sense of adventure. The authors descriptions of the conditions he has to endure during both imprisonment and escape are vivid and this provides the book with a real edge. I often wondered what hell he would have to endure next or which of his colleagues would be left for dead or captured. I read it whilst on holiday and couldn't put it down...worth putting your hand in your pocket for!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By G. Roberts on 8 May 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought another copy of this book having first read it many years ago. A recent visit to the Iles du Salut (which include Devils Island) prompted my renewed interest. (Hard to believe that such a wonderful island was the scene of such brutality!)
I enjoyed the book (again) - well written/translated. Just one residual concern - the French Authorities maintain that the author was never sent to the islands, so its hard to determine whether the book is a true account or just a novel based on the existance of the penal colony.
Nevertheless, and excellent read.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Moondog on 28 July 2009
Format: Paperback
A few years ago this book was passed to me by a friend who said it was the best book he'd ever read. And so it turned out to be my absolute favourite book of all time too. I've owned about 4 different copies now because I keep giving them away to people who then go on to claim this is also the best book they've ever read!

TRUTH OR FICTION???

After speaking in length to someone who once did a Papillion "tour" in the 1980s of all the hotspots in the book, and who spoke to locals that knew Henri Charriere back in that time, the verdict on the book's authenticity seems to be thus: All of the events in Papillion DID happen... BUT... They didn't all necessarily happen to Henri himself. It appears the scenes are an amalgamation of experiences that not only happened to him but to some of the other prisoners he knew during all those years of incarceration. So your reading enjoyment need not be totally spoiled by questioning whether the content is bogus. Just bare in mind Henri may have claimed other people's hardships as his own in order to write this most engaging adventure!

(P.S. If you love this then I'd thoroughly recommend BANCO, the sequel by the same author)
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By K. Baker on 9 Dec 2004
Format: Paperback
What an amazing book! No other book has captured my imagination as strongly as Papillon. It is a true account of a man sentenced to life imprisonment in the French penal colony of French Guiana and his many attempts to escape.
It is superbly paced and flows so well that it's almost impossible to find a point where it can be put down so you can get your breath back! Charriere manages to encompass just about every emotion and through all the adversity and suffering there is still plenty of room for some wicked slices of humour.
At a push, two slight criticisms: Throughout, he claims to be innocent of the crime that he was punished for (which I am a little dubious about after reading some of his exploits!); and I also felt he was a bit "over-modest" and too superhuman at times, but this does not taint the quality of the story at all...just minor niggles!
Also recommended is "Banco", the sequel to Papillon, in which Charriere describes his life on the straight and narrow....yeah,right.
Last point: Why on earth wasn't there a better film made? Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman are brilliant but the film was desperately disappointing. It would have been better to have made two or three 2-hour films (a la Kane and Abel) and done the book justice.
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