Monday 23 June 2014

Heller, Joseph "Catch-22"

Heller, Joseph "Catch-22" - 1961

"Strictly speaking, a 'Catch-22' is "a problematic situation for which the only solution is denied by a circumstance inherent in the problem or by a rule."

In this case, if you want to be discharged by the army, you must be crazy, but if you apply for being recognized as being crazy, you can't be crazy. "Because anyone who wants to get out of combat duty can't be crazy." So, you cannot be discharged.

The whole book continues in this satirical style, if you love dark humour (which I do), this is a great book. I never thought I could laugh about a war book. But I did. A lot. The novel still illustrates the insanity of war, probably even more than any serious book every would. Even though there is a lot to laugh about, it's the kind of laugh you do despite the situation not because of it.

The protagonist of the story is a US army bombardier during World War II in Northern Italy who is close to going home on leave because he has flown an x-amount of missions. But then the number is raised and he can't go home just yet.

There are a lot of tragic scenes and characters in the story. Not only the soldiers appear, also the normal people who have to go through a lot of hardships.

The book was not written during the war but fifteen years later, you can tell that the author wanted this to be an anti-war story. He might have been a little ahead of his time there but aren't those always the people who say it best?

The story about the title is almost as funny as the book itself, they had to change the number several times because of other books that had the same number in their title.

Absurd, satirical, surrealist, call it what you will but enjoy it.

From the back cover: "Fifty years after its original publication, Catch-22 remains a cornerstone of American literature and one of the funniest—and most celebrated—novels of all time. In recent years it has been named to “best novels” lists by Time, Newsweek, the Modern Library, and the London Observer.
Set in Italy during World War II, this is the story of the incomparable, malingering bombardier, Yossarian, a hero who is furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him. But his real problem is not the enemy—it is his own army, which keeps increasing the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service. Yet if Yossarian makes any attempt to excuse himself from the perilous missions he’s assigned, he’ll be in violation of Catch-22, a hilariously sinister bureaucratic rule: a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes a formal request to be removed from duty, he is proven sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved.
Since its publication in 1961, no novel has matched Catch-22’s intensity and brilliance in depicting the brutal insanity of war. This fiftieth-anniversary edition commemorates Joseph Heller’s masterpiece with a new introduction by Christopher Buckley; personal essays on the genesis of the novel by the author; a wealth of critical responses and reviews by Norman Mailer, Alfred Kazin, Anthony Burgess, and others; rare papers and photos from Joseph Heller’s personal archive; and a selection of advertisements from the original publishing campaign that helped turn Catch-22 into a cultural phenomenon. Here, at last, is the definitive edition of a classic of world literature."
Books mentioned in annex:
Andrzejewski, Jerzy "The Children's Crusade" aka"'The Gates of Paradise" (Bramy raju)
Bellow, Saul "Mr. Sammler's Planet"
Burgess, Anthony "A Clockwork Orange"  
Camus, Albert "The Myth of Sisyphus" (Le Mythe de Sisyphe)
Céline, Louis-Ferdinand "Journey to the End of the Night"
Donleavy, J.P. "The Ginger Man"
Dos Passos, John "Three Soldiers"
Forman, Dennis "A Night at the Opera"
Hašek, Jaroslav "The Good Soldier Schweik" (Osudy dobrého vojáka Švejka za světové války)
Heller, Joseph "Something Happened"
Heller, Joseph "Good as Gold"
Hersey, John "A Bell for Adamo"
Horne Burns, John "The Gallery"
Jones, James "From Here to Eternity"
Jones, James "The Thin Red Line"
Kazin, Alfred "On Native Grounds"
Kazin, Alfred "Bright Book of Life"
Kerouac, Jack "On the Road"
Kesey, Ken "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"
Lewis Wallace, Edward "The Pawnbroker"
Lowry, Malcolm "Under the Volcano"
Mailer, Norman "The Naked and the Dead"
Mandel, George "The Wax Boom"
Nabokov, Vladimir "Laughter in the Dark"
Pynchon, Thomas "Gravity's Rainbow"
Remarque, Erich Maria "All Quiet on the Western Front" (Im Westen nichts Neues)
Richler, Mordecai "St. Urbain's Horseman"
Shaw, Irwin "The Young Lions"
Southern, Terry "The Magic Christian"
Uris, Leon "Mila 18"
Vonnegut, Kurt "Cat's Cradle"
Vonnegut, Kurt "Slaughterhouse-Five"
Waugh, Evelyn "Sword of Honour"
Wouk, Herman "The Caine Mutiny"


  1. I read this book during the time of the Vietnam War and really enjoyed it. Definitely understand a catch 22.

    1. That is great. I had not talked to anyone who read this back then but I heard this was a very controversial book at the time. Did you read it in school? What was the general opinion? If you remember it. I liked languages in school but I remember very little of what we discussed. LOL.

      Have a good weekend,

  2. I don't think I ever read anything very interesting in my Lit classes. Read this on my own and yes is was controversial, people either loved it or hated it. I do think it has aged well. I've often wondered if the tv series MASH was inspired by it---I know there was a MASH movie first, but the tv series went far beyond it.

    1. I think I would have loved reading this at the time but somehow I never came across it. Of course, we were not directly involved in the Vietnam War but I remember seeing childen injured during the war coming to our school where we had an indoor pool for their physio. And of course, even though I was still a child in the sixties, I very much feel like being a teenager of the sixties. That decade formed me a lot.