Harper Lee, the celebrated author of To Kill A Mockingbird, once said about Catch-22:
“Catch-22 is the only war novel I’ve ever read that makes any sense.”
I read Catch-22, written by the American novelist Joseph Heller after a friend recommended it to me – the same person who recommended me Slaughterhouse-Five which I reviewed in an earlier piece on this blog.
Catch-22 sees Yossarian, a captain in US Air Force, as the protagonist with his desire of an ordinary man – Yosarrian – to escape out of complexities, brutality, insanity, and absurdity of the second world war while keeping his sanity in place. The only thing which stops him from doing so is one unbending rule from which the novel derives its title from – Catch-22.
Well, the book is not an easy read. It has sufficient volume, diverse characters with parallel storylines, a parade of scenes, and some big, fancy, and complex words. All of this makes sense after looking at the absurd subject the book focuses on – war.
The book is composed of a parade of scenes, each chapter named after a different character, and fine anecdotes – all of which are humorously assembled by Joseph Heller. The book goes to and fro between the scenes and in the first read, it takes quite a length of the book to become familiar with the characters and plot of the book. It is one of those books that you secretly place back on your bookshelf after going through its complexity of characters in the beginning pages. But the book, while resting on the bookshelf, silently laughs at you for keeping it down.
The book sheds light on the absurdity of war and all that it includes: capitalism, narcissism, pride, nationalism, and death.
Writing the first novel is like trying to hold a fish straight out of the water. Joseph Heller, however, has done the task exceptionally well. It is quite brilliant how he balances all the characters in the novel and the plots around them. He makes you laugh at times, makes you sad, angry, sympathising, and gives you think to think about after you have flipped the pages of the book, ending the long journey with it in which you were very well present with its characters.
If you have ever heard of war, and it has made you confused or angry, Catch-22 is a journey to dive in, for sure.