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"Papillon" is alive and well and in a Paris retirement home
Yahoo New ^ | 6/26/05 | AFP

Posted on 06/26/2005 5:19:24 PM PDT by wagglebee

Is Papillon alive and well and living in retirement in the northern Paris suburbs?

The extraordinary claim surfaced after a French newspaper recently reported the 104th birthday of Charles Brunier, a former inmate of the Devil's Island penal colony, said to be seeing out his days at the Val-de-France old people's home in Domont, about 12 miles (20 kilometres) outside the French capital.

According to staff, the former convict is as tough as old boots and rarely communicates. But when he does, it is often with the same message: that it was he who inspired Henri Charriere to write his 1969 best-seller.

More intriguingly: that many of the adventures that Charriere claims to have lived through were in fact his.

Charriere's account of his 11 years in the "bagne" -- the French word for penal colony -- has sold millions of copies around the world and was turned into an Oscar-nominated film in 1973 starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffmann.

But from the start there were doubts about how much of the yarn -- the nine escape attempts, the two years in solitary confinement, the adoption by an Indian tribe -- was actually true.

Today there is a consensus that though Charriere did indeed spend time as a convict in French Guyana in the 1930s and '40s, he could not possibly have lived through all that he laid claim to when he wrote it up 25 years later.

Much of it was invented or told to him by fellow inmates.

"From time to time Monsieur Brunier tells us stories from his life. He certainly served in the 'bagne' with Henri Charriere, and knew him quite well. And he is utterly convinced that Charriere stole the idea for 'Papillon' from him," said Isabelle Mesureur-Cadenel, the director of his retirement home, in an interview.

"The remarkable thing is that he himself has a tattoo on his left arm -- and it is a butterfly," she said. In the book Papillon won his nickname from a butterfly on his chest.

Brunier's life up to his deportation already bears similarities with that of Charriere, who was his junior by five years.

Born in 1901 in Paris, he joined the navy at 17 and was given the croix de guerre for gallantry in action in Syria. But back in France he was in trouble with the law. Mystery now surrounds the crime, but in 1923 he was given a life sentence for murder and transported to Guyana.

On Devil's Island he gave himself the name of Johnny King and on three occasions managed to escape. Once he reached Venezuela by boat and spent several months there before being recaptured. On the last occasion -- at the outbreak of World War II -- he reached the coast of Mexico where he enrolled as a fighter pilot.

He fought with the Free French in Africa where he was personally decorated by General de Gaulle, and finished the war with the rank of chief warrant officer. But that did not stop him being sent back to the Guyana penal colony, from where -- in recognition of his military service -- he was finally released in 1948.

"In later years he lived in Domont and all the children knew him because of the stories he used to tell. They all seemed so far-fetched, but they were true," said Mesureur-Cadenel.

Charriere meanwhile had arrived in Guyana in 1933 having been convicted of murdering a Paris pimp. In "Papillon" he claims he was framed, and the book is written from the viewpoint of a noble criminal struggling against the system.

Little can be established for certain about Charriere's time in Devil's Island, except that in 1944 he finally did escape to Venezuela where he and his wife Rita ran a series of bars and nightclubs.

Fortune came with the publication of "Papillon", after which he bankrolled a flop film -- The Queen of Diamonds with Claudia Cardinale -- moved to Spain, wrote the follow-up "Banco", and died of throat cancer in 1973.

Months after "Papillon" went on sale, two books appeared to debunk the legend. One -- based on police leaks -- showed that he was almost certainly guilty of the original murder in Paris. In the second -- "A butterfly pinned" -- Gerard de Villiers travelled to south America and unearthed major contradictions in Charriere's story.

"Far from being one of the outstanding tough guys in the penal colony, he was a comparatively well-behaved convict, who was contentedly employed for a long time on latrine duty. He never escaped from Devil's Island, and the heroic confrontation with the commander of the camp never occurred," according to a 1970 article in the New York Review of Books.

"The majority of the anecdotes he relates did not happen to him at all, but are adaptations of stories he heard about other people." One of them -- quite plausibly -- a convicted murderer called Charles Brunier.


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Extended News; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: charlesbrunier; devilsisland; france; frenchpenalcolony; henricharriere; papillon; turass

1 posted on 06/26/2005 5:19:26 PM PDT by wagglebee
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To: wagglebee

Did they ever get that business about Billy the Kid straightened out?


2 posted on 06/26/2005 5:21:36 PM PDT by RightWhale (withdraw from the 1967 UN Outer Space Treaty)
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To: RightWhale

Yes. I saw Billy the Kid this a.m. in el Supermercado RibaSmith. He looks great.


3 posted on 06/26/2005 5:25:41 PM PDT by Gatún(CraigIsaMangoTreeLawyer)
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To: wagglebee

Where does he keep his money?


4 posted on 06/26/2005 5:27:34 PM PDT by Thebaddog (Dawgs off the coffee table.)
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To: Gatún(CraigIsaMangoTreeLawyer)

He never looked great. Was he laughing? Billy laughed all the time.


5 posted on 06/26/2005 5:34:06 PM PDT by RightWhale (withdraw from the 1967 UN Outer Space Treaty)
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To: wagglebee

Sorry, Steve McQueen died in 1980.


6 posted on 06/26/2005 5:34:46 PM PDT by buccaneer81 (Rick Nash will score 50 goals this season ( if there is a season)
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To: buccaneer81
Sorry, Steve McQueen died in 1980.

I was thinking the same thing.

7 posted on 06/26/2005 5:35:53 PM PDT by wagglebee ("We are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom." -- President Bush, 1/20/05)
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To: RightWhale

Well, Billy has had a lot of botox treatments; therefore, he can’t laugh that much anymore. It is his dermatologist who is laughing for him all the time.


8 posted on 06/26/2005 5:47:16 PM PDT by Gatún(CraigIsaMangoTreeLawyer)
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To: Gatún(CraigIsaMangoTreeLawyer)

Stiff upper lip? Well, he can still curdle the blood with just one squint-eyed glance, can't he?


9 posted on 06/26/2005 5:50:15 PM PDT by RightWhale (withdraw from the 1967 UN Outer Space Treaty)
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To: RightWhale; Gatún(CraigIsaMangoTreeLawyer)
Did they ever get that business about Billy the Kid straightened out?

No, but the Governor of the New Mexico Terroritories during the Lincoln County Wars who dealt with Billy The Kid, Civil War hero General Lew Wallace, did write a tidy little best seller during his time in Santa Fe. A minor little tome called Ben Hur.

Actually, it was the single best selling book in America during the 19th century.

10 posted on 06/26/2005 5:54:21 PM PDT by Phsstpok (There are lies, damned lies, statistics and presentation graphics, in descending order of truth)
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To: wagglebee
Fortune came with the publication of "Papillon", after which he bankrolled a flop film -- The Queen of Diamonds with Claudia Cardinale -- moved to Spain, wrote the follow-up "Banco", and died of throat cancer in 1973.

I ask you: how could a movie starring Claudia Cardinale POSSIBLY flop??? No, Charrier's story does not add up...

11 posted on 06/26/2005 6:00:57 PM PDT by BradyLS (DO NOT FEED THE BEARS!)
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To: RightWhale

Well, Billy had just had cataract surgery and eye lid lifts and was looking like a cross between Nancy Pelosi and the Witch, so I couldn’t tell.


12 posted on 06/26/2005 6:16:57 PM PDT by Gatún(CraigIsaMangoTreeLawyer)
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To: Gatún(CraigIsaMangoTreeLawyer)

Devil's Island...

Don't suppose it could be leased and close Gitmo?? Certainly would be a wonderful location.


13 posted on 06/26/2005 6:19:51 PM PDT by Bubba (Shoot low! The may be riding Shetlands.)
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To: wagglebee
Well, whatever ~ what I'd like to know and maybe this guy can tell us is where they got the idea for the "butt plug"?

That was really farsighted ~ eventually we are going to carry all our electronic gear in there, of course, but how could these guys figure all that out so long ago.

14 posted on 06/26/2005 6:22:32 PM PDT by muawiyah (q)
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To: RightWhale

Oh yes, he also had that look of that runaway bride-to-be. Yes, it was really scary now that I'm thinking about it.


15 posted on 06/26/2005 6:24:15 PM PDT by Gatún(CraigIsaMangoTreeLawyer)
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To: wagglebee

Bump for later reference.


16 posted on 06/26/2005 6:29:33 PM PDT by MeneMeneTekelUpharsin (Freedom is the freedom to discipline yourself so others don't have to do it for you.)
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To: Bubba

No. I think we should clear out the Hawaiian island of Oahu. There they can drink Mai Tais all day and night and surf 24/7.


17 posted on 06/26/2005 6:35:22 PM PDT by Gatún(CraigIsaMangoTreeLawyer)
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To: Bubba

They can also relax at "Robin's Nest" in Oahu.


18 posted on 06/26/2005 6:39:18 PM PDT by Gatún(CraigIsaMangoTreeLawyer)
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To: Bubba

The islands, where both dangerous and political prisoners were held, now houses luxury hotel accomodations. The coast now is largely the Arianne launch complex around Kourou.


19 posted on 06/26/2005 6:48:58 PM PDT by 68 grunt (3/1 India, 3rd, 68-69, 0311)
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To: buccaneer81; wagglebee

Yep - McQueen died in 1980. Henri Charriere died in 1973 of throat cancer.


20 posted on 06/26/2005 7:18:10 PM PDT by Tennessee_Bob ("Nac Mac Feegle! The Wee Free Men! Nae king! Nae quin! Nae laird! We willna be fooled again!")
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To: Phsstpok
No kidding? Small world.

There is a photograph of the painter who painted the famous portrait of Pres G. Washington. Our time scale is kind of compressed, too.

21 posted on 06/26/2005 7:20:22 PM PDT by RightWhale (withdraw from the 1967 UN Outer Space Treaty)
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To: RightWhale

Do a Google

Lew Wallace
Edwin Booth (yes, John Wilkes brother)
Robert Todd Lincoln

Interesting tie ins.

Not the least of which is the headline "Booth Saves Lincoln"

It involves Mark Twain, The Players Club (no, not that Players Club), President Grant, The Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Queen Victoria, the death of three presidents, Billy the Kid, the Civil War, Andersonville, The Pullman Company, Nicola Tesla, and much more, including the heart of the "Gilded Age."

I've always wanted to write a novel with these folks (and a few others) wandering in and out of my central character's life. It would span from about 1840 to 1940. Perhaps the most incredible and dangerous period in human history.


22 posted on 06/26/2005 8:14:15 PM PDT by Phsstpok (There are lies, damned lies, statistics and presentation graphics, in descending order of truth)
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To: Phsstpok

It's been a while since Schroedinger's Cat. I liked the tavern scene with Einstein and that Finegan's Wake author, what's his name, the Dubliner.


23 posted on 06/26/2005 8:22:31 PM PDT by RightWhale (withdraw from the 1967 UN Outer Space Treaty)
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To: RightWhale

A man after my own heart!

One of my favorite TV shows ever was Connections. The guy who did it was annoying as hell, but the idea just resonated with me.

We don't have a clue where we've come from, do we?

It's the casual relationships that we know nothing about (but were common knowledge "back then") that we've lost entirely.

Context. It's all context.


24 posted on 06/26/2005 8:36:08 PM PDT by Phsstpok (There are lies, damned lies, statistics and presentation graphics, in descending order of truth)
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To: Phsstpok

"It involves Mark Twain, The Players Club (no, not that Players Club), President Grant, The Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Queen Victoria, the death of three presidents, Billy the Kid, the Civil War, Andersonville, The Pullman Company, Nicola Tesla, and much more, including the heart of the "Gilded Age."

I've always wanted to write a novel with these folks (and a few others) wandering in and out of my central character's life. It would span from about 1840 to 1940. Perhaps the most incredible and dangerous period in human history."
_____________________________________________________________

Just try to keep it historically plausible. I saw "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" blech.


25 posted on 06/26/2005 9:45:44 PM PDT by sinanju
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To: wagglebee

"Fortune came with the publication of "Papillon", after which he bankrolled a flop film -- The Queen of Diamonds with Claudia Cardinale -- moved to Spain, wrote the follow-up "Banco", and died of throat cancer in 1973."

______________________________________________________________

I read "Banco" years after "Papillon". "Banco" was his all own and in it (through flashbacks) he basically admits he was an awful, self-destructive juvenile delinquent and a low-life crook who was lucky to live long enough to mature sufficiently to go straight. Essentially, the murder was the only crime of which he claimed to be innocent.


26 posted on 06/26/2005 9:52:58 PM PDT by sinanju
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To: sinanju
Just try to keep it historically plausible. I saw "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" blech.

The point is that the people, and a good many other equally well known names and events, really did come into contact. The trick would be coming up with a plausible central character.

It might be easiest to use one of the real individuals. Most likely the younger Lincoln, though he's not 100% sympathetic.

27 posted on 06/27/2005 3:08:41 AM PDT by Phsstpok (There are lies, damned lies, statistics and presentation graphics, in descending order of truth)
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