Hi blogsters:

A couple of days ago I came across a tattered copy of Henri Charrierè’s, Papillon on the bookshelf.   I’d read it many times over the decades, but there’s always one more read left in it, it seems.  This might be the last.

Charrierè’s autobiography always has something new to tell me, depending on where my life is when I re-read it.

Papillon (Charrierè) was transported to the French prison islands of Guinea in the Caribbean in 1931, where thousands of prisoners were kept out of sight and mind of the French citizenry.  Devil’s Island was the most well known, but it was only one of the camps where 80 percent of the prisoners died before serving out their sentences.

The book is a story of courage, determination, brutality, as Papillon goes through a series of escape attempts, dungeons, unthinkable tortures, solitary confinements at a time in history when the ‘civilized world’ was no more civilized than it was before, or since.  Eventually, he escaped and became a worthy citizen of Venezuela from 1945 until he wrote the book in 1967.

In some ways the writing and the stories both remind me of the fiction works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Strange how some nationalities get all the credit, while others manage to escape notice.  The Spaniards and Portuguese take their battering from the waning memories of the Inquisition.  The Russians from the Gulag camps.  The Chinese from the Great Cultural Revolution.  The Belgians from the terrors they poured onto the Congo.  The Cambodians, the Ethiopians and the Germans have all been held up to the light and examined with appropriate repudiation.

Somehow the Brits and the French just managed to escape notice when the recognition for some of the vilest institutionally sanctioned acts of human brutality in modern human history.

Papillon.  A book worth reading and thinking about by all you ‘jail’em-til-they-rot’ enthusiasts.

We haven’t caught up to the French, Brits, Spaniards, Cambodians, Chinese, Russians, Belgians, Germans, and other civilized nations yet.  But we have the ingredients.

Plenty of prisoners and prisons.  A freedom-loving population of the same kind of jurors, courts, prosecutors who sent Papillon and thousands of others off to a life and deaths they’d never tolerate for any cute animal that appeared in a Walt Disney film named Bambi.

Old Jules

Papillon Trailer

Papillon(1973) – Theme from Papillon

4 responses to “Papillon

  1. Yes “we have the ingredients” to match the others but we sure can kill as a country like a sonofabitch real good!

    Great post Jules and glad you mentioned the the Brits and the French. They tortured at will in West Africa with the French in my opinion being worse by far than the Brits.

  2. I read it oh so long ago. Think I’ll read it again….thanks.

  3. I think we’ve always been a brutal people, very willing to treat people in very inhumane ways. I hesitate to even use the word inhumane because it now sounds oxymoronic, somehow. Humans can be very despicable. Until they choose to respond from their better natures.

    Our condoning and practice of torture, perhaps always done, but transparent now, is very telling about where we are as a country and it’s not far removed from the barbaric.

    The dark corners of our penal system are being brought into the light. I recently saw a video of police brutality on CBS News, who claim to be trying to bring real news back, that made me sob uncontrollably. Our entire penal system needs major changing. It’s just more Big Business. And it’s beyond ugly.

    It’s tempting to say we are soooo fucked, but I’m a hope-monger and I believe it’s possible that we are going through a necessary upheaval to get to something better. It won’t come through our government, but through individuals who make choices that support good in their own lives and a greater good amongst our brothers and sisters who are doing the same.

    Thank you for a very thoughtful and important post.

  4. One Fly: Hi amigo. I’m not so certain anyone’s ever been better at it than anyone else. As a species we’ve had a lot more practice at that particular set of skills than we’ve had at any other we’ve cultivated. Bound to get good at it over time. Thanks for the visit and observations.

    Momlady: Thankee for stopping by. I was hoping the post would lead someone in that direction. Gracias, J

    Teresa Evangeline: Hidee Ma’am. I appreciate you coming by and offering up your response. I think your initial inclination as to what to say was accurate enough, though I trust whatever level of fornicationedness we’re occupying at the moment is precisely where we’re supposed to be. Whomever the inclusive ‘we’ happens to count among its adherents.

    Me, I’m trying to quit without dying, or if dying’s a must I have to figure out a way to keep the cats fed once I leave the vehicle. Twiddling my thumbs just trying not to kill anyone, mainly, until the cats and chickens die off so I can hurl myself off into whatever comes next, I reckons.

    Gracias, J

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