📚 Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane, he had to fly them. 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. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle. Joseph Heller ‘Catch-22’
Read https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catch-22
I’ve lost track of the amount of times I have tried reading Catch 22, only to put it down again out of frustration. There is something about the disjointed narrative that leaves you as a reader feeling slightly disoriented, second guessing yourself about who exactly is doing what when. However, maybe in the end that is the point? Maybe something more linear would not do justice to the absurdity of war. After a while the book seems to settle into a rhythm where the chaos just feels like another character.

It is interesting to compare this with James A. Michener’s depiction of World War II in his novel Space. Michener uses the war as a foundation to build up Norman Grant as a hero. Captain John Yossarian on the other hand is an anti-hero whose main intent is to survive.

It doesn’t make a damned bit of difference who wins the war to someone who’s dead.

When you listen to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History series on the ‘Supernova in the East‘, it feels like heroes were often few and far between.

Reading this book I was reminded of a quote from a Peter Goldsworthy novel Maestro, “Cartoon descriptions? How else to describe a cartoon world?.” I think something similar could be said about Keller’s creation. How does one capture such horrific tales of death, other than with humour and absurdity?


Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them. With Major Major it had been all three. Even among men lacking all distinction he inevitably stood out as a man lacking more distinction than all the rest, and people who met him were always impressed by how unimpressive he was.

“But I make a profit of three and a quarter cents an egg by selling them for four and a quarter cents an egg to the people in Malta I buy them from for seven cents an egg. Of course, I don’t make the profit. The syndicate makes the profit. And everybody has a share.”

Milo Minderbinder, p. 231

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