Papillon

Best read with Editor’s Papillon

Papillon is a nickname for Henri Charrière, a wrongfully imprisoned Frenchman from the early 19th century. He, like a lot of girls of my generation, bore a very prominent butterfly tattoo, hence the name (papillon is French for butterfly). However, instead of the popular off the shoulder blade location, his was worn proudly on the chest.

He wrote a self proclaimed memoir about his experience and repeated attempted escapes in a penal settlement of mainland French Guyana, South America. According to some researchers, the book is more novel than his autobiography, or most of the events in fact happened to others. Well, either way, an interesting story nonetheless.

Side note: Not being an avid reader, I didn’t randomly come across a memoir from the late 70s. I saw the film adaptation starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman with a dear friend of my in my family’s cabin earlier this year. I had always been meaning to watch it, it being one of the few films at the cabin I hadn’t yet seen (let alone over and over again). My friend was up for it, but tried to warn me about it’s heaviness. Unlike me, he had read the book. I was too blinded by McQueen’s good looks to care if the movie would be a buzz kill. Though throughly being a mood killer, and infuriating about with how people can be wrongfully treated, be they good or bad. It was a good movie; it made one think. 

Now, a few months later, I needed to find some interesting read whilst I waited for my elderly grandmother had her biannually EKG; my good deed of the day is driving her to and fro doctors offices. In their better bookcase was a copy of aforementioned book, translated into slightly outdated Icelandic. Being a tad more grown up now, I took it, willingly knowing what I was getting myself into.

For supposedly killing a pimp in Paris, Papillon drew the short stick, and got served a overly harsh sentence; a lifetime of slavery! Convinced he was innocent, he made a vow of being free again. He made 9 escape attempts, one of which was successful. I have yet to revise how he did this. I have my vague recollection of the movie and the preface to reflect on. I call this quasi-cheating.

I have today finished the first notebook of eleven; Charrière apparently is not a man of volumes, but good old fashioned notebooks. I’m hoping to read at least one notebook a dail. That way I might actually finish a non-university book this year, and do it before my Christmas. Wish me luck, and don’t hesitate to tell me off for slacking off. I mean to finish before promptly, or at least before RIFF commences.

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About tungufoss

a PhD student that sews whilst her code compiles...

3 responses to “Papillon”

  1. tungufoss says :

    Speaking of RIFF, who here volunteers to be my escort? Given the ticket prices are relatively fair.

  2. neginegi says :

    I love the phrase "Convinced he was innocent…"."Nah, I'm pretty sure I didn't do any of that, officer."

  3. tungufoss says :

    If he doesn't recall it happening, it can't have happened. That seems like a pretty fair assumption… Or maybe he's just saying that, in order to sleep better at night. You never know, you know. We should just take his word for it. He was a sort of respectable guy, except for the fact being highly infiltrated in the underworld of Paris. Why would he lie?

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