Saturday, July 2, 2022

Georgette Fourel: Who Was The Wife of Henri “Papillon” Charriere?

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Georgette Fourel is the former wife of Henri Charriere, who was known as Papillon because of a butterfly tattooed on his chest. Charriere was a French citizen who lived out his days in Venezuela and is famous for being a criminal and a writer. Let’s find out more about him and his wife.

Georgette Fourel: All You Need To Know

Who was Georgette Fourel’s husband Henri Charriere?

Henri Antonin Charriere was born into a family of teachers, Joseph and Marie-Louise, originally from Gras and Saint-Marcel-D’Ardeche, who settled after their marriage in Saint-Etienne-de-Lugdares and later in Ucel, where he grew up. On October 7th, 1917, his mother died of a contagious disease, contracted from the wounded she was treating, and therefore Charriere was adopted by court decision of May 19, 1923. 

When did Georgette Fourel’s husband join the navy?

On May 2, 1925, he joined the navy for three years, and there he found himself in a special section in Calvi, where he got a butterfly tattoo. He managed to retire on April 28, 1927, due to a mutilated thumb. Back in Ardeche, he worked there during the day while playing rugby at Aubenas. 

When did Georgette Fourel and Henri Charriere get married?

Henri Charriere settled in Paris in 1927, living with Georgette Jeanne Fourel (“Nénette”). He married her on December 22, 1929, but divorced on July 8, 1930.

Why was Georgette Fourel’s husband arrested?

On March 26, 1930, a man named Roland Legrand, officially a butcher but not officially a pimp, was shot in the stomach at 3:30 am. He was admitted to the hospital in Lariboisiere, where he died on March 27 at 12:10 am, after informing the police of the name of the murderer, “Papillon Roger”. Henri Charriere, ie “Papillon Pouce-coupe”, was arrested on April 7, 1930. Charriere was sentenced for the murder of Roland Legrand to lifelong forced labor in Guyana prison on October 28, 1931, a murder for which he has always claimed himself to be innocent.

When did Georgette Fourel’s husband try to escape from prison?

He left the citadel of Saint-Martin-de-Ré on September 29, 1933 aboard the Martiniere and landed on October 14 with the status of “deportee” to Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni . Later, he was arrested on criminal bath Cayenne, in French Guyana, where he had several trials with dramatic implications. He attempted his first escape on November 28, 1933, or just 37 days after arriving in Guyana, along with André Maturette and Joanes Clousiot, who followed him on a daring escape. The three were promptly recaptured. 

How many times did Georgette Fourel’s husband attempt to escape prison?

In thirteen years in prison, Georgette Fourel’s husband attempted nine escapes. Other escape attempts were made at Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni, on the island of San Giuseppe, on Devil’s Island, in Colombia and finally in Venezuela. 

How did Georgette Fourel’s husband end up in Venezuela?

The last escape, which occurred from Devil’s Island, took him to Caracas, Venezuela in 1945, where he managed to settle down (Venezuela had no extradition agreements with France) and live as a free man alongside his new partner, Rita Alcover. Some biographers of Henri Charriere claim that he was able to bribe some guards in his escape attempts due to the fact that he had money. As the prison uniform had no pockets, Charriere used, like many other inmates, an opening box that could be inserted into the anus and was therefore very difficult to discover during searches.

Why did Georgette Fourel’s husband write Papillon?

In 1956 he became a Venezuelan citizen. In 1967, an earthquake destroyed the nightclub he had opened in Caracas, and this fact led him to write a memoir, Papillon , one of the best-selling novels of the 70s, selling more than 10 millions of copies in the world. This book, which he himself describes as the “path of decay”, contains 75% of the truth. 

When was Georgette Fourel’s husband pardoned for his crimes?

Henri Charriere was pardoned on October 17, 1970 by the President of the French Republic and settled in Fuengirola, Spain. Charriere appeared in a 1970 movie called Loot Out, aka Popsy Pop, starring Claudia Cardinale.

When did Georgette Fourel’s husband die?

On July 29, 1973, he died in Madrid of throat cancer, but his tomb is in Lanas, in Ardèche, in France, where, according to his last wishes, he was buried with his mother.  Some features remain unclear from his life, particularly in the last six years, in addition to the life of his wife Rita and daughter.

What is chronicled in Georgette Fourel’s husband’s book, Papillon?

In his book published in 1969, Henri Charriere, alias “Papillon”, recounts that during one of his escapes from the penal colony of French Guiana in 1934, he found himself in a horrible prison in Santa Marta in Colombia, installed on the banks of the river. At high tide, the underground dungeons are flooded. Roger-Jean Ségalat finds the prison: it is built two kilometers from the sea. 

The convict tells in his autobiography, which sold 2.5 million copies in France, and 10 million in the rest of the world, that he pretends to be Belgian, and that the Belgian consul in this city manages to get him released. Only here, “the consulate of Belgium was not founded in Santa Marta until 1954, twenty years after the escape of Carriere”, writes Roger-Jean Ségalat.

Very imaginative, Henri Charriere assures us that he lived six months among the Guajiro Indians in a tribe of pearl fishermen with his two wives, Lalli and Zoraima. He describes them naked and amuses himself by painting flowers on their breasts. Mandated by Robert Laffont, the librarian goes twice to the Guajira. He discovers that the Indians of this tribe are very modest and that contrary to what Papillon tells, tradition does not allow them to fish and dive to look for pearls.

What kind of people did Georgette Laurel’s husband stay with?

In fact, the descriptions of the boxes given in the Papillon book apply to Motilones, Indians of the mountains that separate Colombia from Venezuela. Henri Charriere did go to this region, but in 1947, when he was no longer a fugitive. We understand that Papillon, sent to prison in 1933 for a murder that he has always denied, had distanced himself a lot from the truth.

It is moreover to thoroughly check the autobiography of Henri Charriere that his editor Robert Laffont sent Roger-Jean Ségalat for three months in Guyana, Surinam, Trinidad, Venezuela, Colombia. Because after the global success of Papillon, two books, Papillon Epingle by Gerard de Villiers, and The four truths of Papillon (Georges Menager) had emphasized the creative freedoms taken by Henri Charriere.

Who played Georgette Fourel’s husband in a Hollywood movie?

The librarian Roger-Jean Segalat, also a writer (he edited the Les Grandes Affaires Criminelles collection), very quickly discovered that it was not an “exact autobiography”. In the penal colony, where he spent twelve years, Henri Charriere copiously “drew on the common fund of what one might call the folklore of the penal colony, horrible stories that all prisoners know”.

From this trip to South America, Roger-Jean Ségalat (deceased in 2010) drew a fascinating story entitled Sur les traces de Papillon, which he ultimately decided not to publish. “It would be nice to display in letters thirty centimeters high in all bookstores in the world that there are in reality no underwater prisons in Santa Marta, the awful dungeons of Papillon would still exist in the city.” he concluded. This has become even more true since the release of the movie Papillon starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman in 1973, where the Hollywood superstar McQueen played a role based on Georgette Fourel’s husband’s life.

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