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Henri Charrière Books In Order

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Publication Order of Papillon Books

Papillon (1969)Description / Buy at Amazon
Banco: The Further Adventures of Papillon (1972)Description / Buy at Amazon

Henri Charriere is a biography and memoir author that is best known for his work “Papillon.” The author was born in Southern France in 1906 and was the son of schoolteacher parents.

Right from when he was a child, he was known as a kid that loved to seek adventure. Following his schooling, he would have a short stint in the Navy and then leave to become known as a petty criminal who loved the Paris underworld.
Since he had tattooed on his chest a butterfly, he would soon become known as “Papillon” the local word for butterfly.

For the longest time, he was a small-time gangster in Paris whose main jobs included cracking safes and stealing, even though some accounts claimed that he was also engaged in pimping.
During his time as a petty criminal, he often worked with all manner of mobsters that contracted his services.

He would ultimately get imprisoned for murder and would famously publish “Papillon,” a work that chronicled his experiences in prison and how he escaped.

While Henri Charriere was very well known as a gangster in the French capital, he somehow managed to never get arrested until 1931.

Following the murder of Roland Legrand one of the major pimps in Paris at the time, he was arrested on suspicion of being responsible for the crime.
He always maintained that he was not guilty of killing the pimp but there is hardly any information on why the French police pegged him as their man.
Following a quick case, he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in the infamous penal colony of Cayenne in French Guyana.

Nonetheless, Charriere did not intend to spend the rest of his life in prison and this marked the beginning of a series of daring prison escape attempts that would make him one of the most famous incarcerated people in the world.
Three years after he was first incarcerated, he broke out ending up in a leper colony while trying to head into the Gulf of Maracaibo using a rickety boat he made himself.
He would live with a native tribe for several years learning the ways of the jungle.

When he was finally arrested, he was incarcerated on Devils Island, which was believed to be impossible to escape as it was guarded by the sea and the jungle.

Undaunted, Henri Charriere made seven escape attempts and was ultimately successful on the eighth. Once he got out of prison, he traversed dangerous waters full of sharks on a makeshift raft made of stringing coconuts together.
In 1945, he finally managed to get to Venezuela where he put down roots, got married, and even became a citizen, which made it possible for him to embark on the next chapter of his life.

In Venezuela, he had what may be deemed a very normal life as he ran a nightclub, prospected for gold, and pumped gas.

When he was 62, he read about the adventures of a former French prostitute Albertine Sarrazin in her novel L’Astragale. It was this that gave him an idea and he began writing the manuscript for Paillon.
It was ultimately published by a French publisher and within ten weeks of its publishing sold more than 700,000 copies. In 1973, the book was adapted into a movie that starred Steven McQueen as the lead character Charriere.
Henri Charriere was finally pardoned in 1970 which meant he could finally live in France once the statute of limitations for his escape expired.

However, he did not live long after his return to Paris and he died aged 66 in 1973. By the time he died, “Papillon” his magnum opus had sold more than 5 million copies across the world.

“Papillon” by Henri Charriere is an autobiographical work following the author’s life. Following a career in the underworld of Paris in the company of prostitutes, thieves, and safecrackers, he was sentenced to prison for murder.
In an effort to preserve his spirit, his sanity, his health, and even his capacity for enjoying life under some horrific and deplorable circumstances, he insisted he was just visiting and intended to leave soon which resulted in several attempted escapes.
Six weeks after starting his sentence in French Guiana, he escaped and traveled for more than a thousand miles across shark-infested seas to land in Colombia without the benefit of either compass or maps.
Working with the members of a leper colony where he had made friends, he found his way to a local village and got married to two women who bore his children and positively adored him.

But things changed when he was recaptured and sent to Devil’s Island and was subjected to a starvation diet and solitary confinement so that they could break his spirit and body.

But he was still determined to escape when he was finally let back into the general population.
This is an exhilarating work that speaks of his journeys of endurance, adventure, escape, and ultimately freedom.

Henri Charriere’s work “Banco” is an interesting continuation of the autobiography that was first narrated in “Papillon.”

The work continues right from where “Papillon” left off following Henri winning his freedom while he was living in Venezuela.

Nonetheless, living up to his promise of leading an honest life while making enough money to pay back those in Paris who unjustly robbed him of his freedom is proving hard goals to achieve at the same time.
Banco is an account of the many adventures that Papillon had from the failed robberies to dice games and dangerous scams he ran.

It seems that he was not very fortunate and he does not have enough money. His circumstances make his return to France almost impossible given that fate seems to be playing some very dirty tricks on him.
While he lives a life that has all manner of adventures, it seems revenge was not written in the stars for him.

Banco provides that closure we need after reading “Papillon” as Henri arrives back in Paris after four decades to realize his best revenge was to have stopped those who had sent him to prison.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Henri Charrière

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