“Man’s highest virtues are to be found in what is called the gutter,the underworld;and what gangsters do is sometimes the same as what heroes do.”
Henri charriere(Papillon) was a French citizen who was sentenced for a killing that he did no commit. The book is about his quest for freedom, his escapes from prison,help from the people whom he met in these escapes, solitude and against the French law which did not give a convict a chance to rectify his mistake and live an honored life. Accused of a crime which he did not commit and his desire to be free was the driving force in all his adventures.He was a good sailor and the description of his journeys in the sea is mesmerizing.
He made his first escape from Saint Laurent Du Maroni to the Pigeon Island. Sailed for 13 days on sea to Trinidad to curaco where he lived in an Indian tribe (Gojara). He had a great time there but still his fight for freedom made him leave the Indians.But his break cost him and he was again imprisoned and sent to Santa Marta Prison. Here he attempted 4 unsuccessful attempts to escape and due to bad conduct was sentenced to 2 years of solitary confinement. After the confinement he returned to the Saint Joseph island where he was a prisoner but had the freedom of fishing , gambling,cooking but not that of escaping. But the idea of escaping was still there and had almost build a raft. At the last moment he was betrayed by a fellow prisoner and was condemned to 5 more years of solitary confinement.But he got lucky and came back from the term in just 19 months.He asked the authorities to send him to Devil’s Island. It had already been 11 years of prison with only 7 months of freedom and he was getting impatient. He managed to escape from this island on a raft made of jute and coconuts.He reached George town and then a series of events led him to Venezuela.He was sent to El Dorado Prison .He got lucky and the government changed and it was here that he attained his freedom. The body agreed to give him one year of freedom and if he behaved well he would be free. A new country , different from France gave him the opprtunity to begin his life as a good man.
“But there is something truly wonderful about cutting a home baked cassava or maize loaf in two when it’s insufficient for your own family ; sharing a meal – that was not enough in the first place – with a stranger, a fugitive from justice into the bargain.”