Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Catch-22 is the kind of book that intimidates me. Mainly for two reasons. First, it is a long book. At the same time, it is a luxuriously, extravagant display of English vocabulary. Second, the book is set beyond my cultural understanding. In the middle of World War II.

These are the exact kinds of books I am apprehensive to read. Here, Joseph Heller has pulled out a masterpiece. Set in World War II, following the story of former-lead bombardier Yossarian (What an absurd name!), and his stubborn pursuit to not fly any more missions in the war. But, there is a catch. With this premise, the author presents us a story of toxic masculinity, nationalism, assertion, authority, aggression, conformist mindset, etc. explained through a self-engulfing term: ‘CATCH-22’. Not just this, the book is a journey of Yossarian’s resilience, stubbornness, perseverance, and adamant will against this very system. To oversimplify, this is a one man’s fight for survival against the system which glorifies it.

To my surprise, it never got boring. Rather, I laughed so much at the absurdity of everything in the plot. Through remarkable satire, the book explains the absurdity of war, and how the war helps no one but a handful. The irony is, I was reading this book on the same day when I watched Shershaah. Connect the dots.

Also Read:  Latitudes of Longing by Shubhangi Swarup

Joseph Heller in a way takes up a challenge to start 40+ chapters with a character’s name. A challenge which he excels at. In addition, each character is crazier than the other with their singular pursuits, and passions. The conversation between these characters can only be termed as ‘exponentially absurd’. And, all this is happening in the midst of the World War. Hence, absurdity lingers around the whole book as a fact.

For obvious reasons, I googled the meaning of ‘Catch-22’ outside the fictional confines of this book. I’ll save you the trouble, it means nothing. ‘Catch-22’ in the book is a rule which is used to justify the absurdity of the war. 

PS: I had always thought this book to be non-fiction.

Written By Rajeev. He likes to know about human experiences and the evolution of society. And, if you don’t find him reading a book then, you’d find him watching a film.

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