I just finished reading Papillon by Henri Charriere. The book was given to me by my friend Ajoy Chelat, as an expression of pure friendship, for me never asking for that. In this book also, we see the protagonist Papillon (the author himself, the book claims to be more of autobiographical) coming across such so many friends, too eager to help him in his endeavors, and expecting nothing in return. Is it the virtue of the underworld as he claim it to be, or pure human nature, or just exaggerations of the more pretentious and too much self important story teller, I can't say – may be a combination of all. I put in the third possibility, 'cause wherever our hero goes women start drooling over, whether it is the governor’s wife or a tribal Indian girl, he transforms into their greatest relief and once he has enough, 'broken heartedly' leaves them without a word.
In this enormous novel, extending to 560 pages we see too many confusing characters wit h still more confusing names. But I am sure, any one read the book wont forget Cuic-Cuic, the tough China man who has no hesitation to thrust his mercy-less blade onto three men and stuff them into charcoal kiln. He lives in an island surrounded by a treacherous mud pond. It is impossible to traverse the pond, 'cause of the ever changing nature of the mud. A shallow firm area this hour can be a bottomless mud pit in the next. So how Cuic-Cuic make his way? He has a small pig, an excellent navigator, who walks in front with its master following. At one occasion we can even see Cuic-Cuic carrying the pig, 'cause it was too tiered after a long walk. When they start off for a break through the sea, Cuic-Cuic insist that he should take his pig along. (and never leaves it broken heartedly) While on voyage, Papillon jokingly ask him, “ when are we going to eat the pig?” The Chinese retorts, “ He is my friend. Anyone wants to put his hand on him, have to kill me first.”
We see a few more moving scenes of the pig and its master. But as usual, when Papillon moves along leaving old friends these characters are also forgotten and we hear nothing more of them. But after reading this much acclaimed – I think more hyped and overrated – novel, it was this small silent animal and its master who impressed me more than the larger than life hero. The problem with my tastes, may be!