Introduced by Malcolm Bradbury
Illustrated by Neil Packer
Captain Yossarian is a rebel with a cause: to avoid flying the bombing missions over Italy and France that sooner or later will almost certainly result in his own death.
Captain Yossarian is a rebel with a cause: to avoid flying the bombing missions over Italy and France that sooner or later will almost certainly result in his own death. But Yossarian's attempts to convince his superiors that he is crazy and should be grounded are thwarted by the elliptical piece of reasoning known as 'Catch-22': to ask to be excused combat duty would be to exhibit the powers of a sane and rational mind, and therefore make further missions inevitable. As Doc Daneeka says: 'If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to.'
'That's some catch, that Catch-22," he observed. "It's the best there is," Doc Daneeka agreed'
Such is the famous premise of Joseph Heller's savagely funny anti-war satire, first published in 1961, and it continues to hit its targets today. Here is farcical bureaucracy, logistical confusion, and a military freak show as dangerous as it is absurd - the reclusive squadron commander, Major Major, bullied by his own men; the sadistic Colonel Cathcart, who keeps raising the number of missions required to complete a tour of duty; and the shameless capitalist, Milo Minderbinder, not averse to bombing his own base in the name of profit. Watching with bewilderment, as one by one his friends are killed in action, is Yossarian, the ultimate anti-hero, who resorts to ever more desperate measures to save himself from the same fate. From screwball comedy to harrowing horror, Catch-22 - as no other novel before or since - captures the manic energy and madness of war.
'Reading books can be dangerous, but there has only been one that has resulted in me falling off a bed, a chair and a New York subway seat from laughter and, at the same time, instilling in me a permanent dread of calm, reassuring pipe smokers. Catch-22 changed the way I view the world. The simple, reassuring beliefs of a young American were swept away in this absurd, crazed, humane, Lewis Carroll view of WWII. It was goodbye to Truth, Justice and the American Way...hello to a world where all are trapped in an oriental circular dance of logical illogic.... doomed like dodos. All except for one. His escape gives hope to all of us madmen.'
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