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Henri Charrière dit 'Papillon'

Henri Charrière, born on November 16, 1906, in St Etienne de Lugdarès, Ardèche, and deceased on July 29, 1973, in Madrid, Spain, is best known for his nickname "Papillon" due to the butterfly tattoo on his chest. His life's story is a remarkable tale of resilience and determination.

Early Life and Background

  • Born to Joseph Charrière and Marie-Louise Thierry, both educators.
  • Lost his mother to a contagious disease in 1917, leading to a turbulent youth.
  • Expelled from school in 1925 for a violent fight, leading his father to enroll him in the French Navy.
  • Served in the disciplinary battalions in Corsica in 1926, where he got his famous butterfly tattoo.

Incarceration and Escape Attempts

  • In 1931, Charrière was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to life in forced labor in the French Guiana penal colony for the murder of his friend Roland Legrand, a crime he always denied.
  • He first escaped the penal colony in 1934, only to be recaptured and returned by Colombian authorities.

Final Escape and Later Life

  • Successfully escaped for the last time in 1944.
  • Settled in Caracas, Venezuela, where he became a citizen and rebuilt his life.
  • Returned to France permanently in 1969.

Literary Contributions

  • Authored the book "Papillon," which, though not entirely autobiographical, recounts his experiences and those of other inmates like Charles Brunier and René Belbenoit.
  • Followed up with "Banco," detailing his post-prison adventures.

Charrière's life story, particularly his experiences in the French penal system and his relentless pursuit of freedom, has captivated readers and audiences worldwide, making him an enduring symbol of resilience against injustice.