March 6, 2012

An arms trafficker’s reading list


What’s Viktor Bout, the convicted international arms trafficker, reading these days?

In an interview with Nicholas Schmidle of The New Yorker, Bout—who is currently awaiting sentencing at Manhattan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan—praised:

…Laura Hillenbrand’s “Unbroken” and encouraged me to read Henri Charrière’s “Papillon.”

Among other details in Schmidle’s piece: Bout is only allowed paperbacks as “hardcovers are considered potential weapons.”

Papillon, Charrière’s memoir, is about his conviction in Paris in 1931 for a murder he did not commit and his eventual escape from the notorious Devil’s Island. He was the first prisoner to ever escape from the prison. The book was published in 1968, more than 20 years after his escape.


Kelly Burdick is the former executive editor of Melville House.