10/10 One hell of a story and one hell of a book. Written by Papillon himself, there’s something epic about this book that just keeps you on edge and wanting more. Because the book quickly gets to his first break from the prison, and because the entire escape adventure is so gripping, I was rooting for Papillon to succeed in all his subsequent breaks, just so I can read about another epic adventure. Although it took until the end of the book for him to succeed again, there were very few bits where I was bored. There’s a loads of prison side stories that just keep you astonished and a loads of the most extraordinary side characters. Their descriptions are always short but very vivid, hence, it makes for a nice film playing in your imagination. Highly recommended read!


Henri Charrière, nicknamed Papillon, was, according to his own account, wrongfully convicted of murder and sent to a penal colony in French Guiana to serve a life sentence. Wholly committed to escaping from the penal colony, Papillon goes on to describe his life and his many attempts at making a break from the islands of French Guiana. Spanning nearly 15 years of Papillon’s life, the story starts in France describing his trial, moves onto the voyage to the French Guiana, describes the first successful break that takes him on another 11 month adventure, comes back to French Guiana after his recapture, and finally concludes with the final break, that makes him a free man in his new homeland of Venezuela.


  • it’s strange how in his successful escapes he thanks god and in the failed ones he curses him. Thinking “ohh, God you’ve been so good to me”, after literally rotting away in prison for 10 years and failing one escape after another seems very odd.
  • big part of his success was his determination and the strength of his mind. Because of this, I was thinking quite a bit about the role of consciousness and shaping your reality in times of hardship. Everything is relative and you create your own reality in your head. It’s not easy, but it seems that keeping an overly optimistic, or at least realistic but determined perspective, plays a role in the outcome - or rather, your perception of the outcome. Which ultimately is the goal. Even if the hardship bents you physically, as long as you stay straight mentally, you have won over the adversity - because consciousness is just a persistent illusion in your head.