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Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Catch-22 (1961)

by Joseph Heller

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Catch-22 (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
29,22437931 (4.13)768
  1. 455
    Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (kiwiflowa, WisePolyphemos)
  2. 196
    A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (InvisiblerMan)
  3. 70
    Closing Time by Joseph Heller (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: Joseph Heller's sequel to "Catch-22" set in the early 1990s.
  4. 114
    Atonement by Ian McEwan (rosylibrarian)
  5. 126
    All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque (kittycatpurr)
  6. 62
    The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (wvlibrarydude)
    wvlibrarydude: Satire and humor that will split your gut. Read if you want to laugh at humanity.
  7. 40
    In Pharaoh's Army: Memories of the Lost War by Tobias Wolff (paulkid)
    paulkid: Me, I think that true stories are the most absurd. For me, "In Pharaoh's Army" may not be as funny as "Catch-22", but it's close and definitely has made me consider my own serious outlook on life a little less, well, seriously. See if you agree.
  8. 62
    The Good Soldier Svejk by Jaroslav Hašek (roby72)
  9. 41
    One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey (gbill)
  10. 52
    Nine Stories by J. D. Salinger (girlunderglass)
    girlunderglass: Both stories about war, plus Heller owes much to Salinger in terms of authorial voice (wit, vernacular language, goddamits, sense of humor)
  11. 20
    The Bamboo Bed by William Eastlake (alaskayo)
    alaskayo: A genuine equal to Catch-22 written for the Vietnam age. Not just a cheap attempt to imitate Heller's talent-slash-luck, Eastlake may well have surpassed his masterpiece with this long-last classic. Read alongside Dispatches to maximize pleasure; then continue your newfound, inevitable addiction to all things Eastlake, because he really is that good--and he really is that inexplicably, undeservably unknown.… (more)
  12. 20
    King Rat by James Clavell (John_Vaughan)
  13. 31
    Just One Catch: A Biography of Joseph Heller by Tracy Daugherty (Imprinted)
    Imprinted: This biography includes a lengthy section on the writing and publishing of Catch-22, the tragicomic 1961 novel that originated in Heller’s experience as a World War II bombardier
  14. 31
    The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts by Louis de Bernières (Pedrolina)
    Pedrolina: Both books take on the slightly surreal side to war, but with serious consequences nonetheless.
  15. 10
    And No Birds Sang by Farley Mowat (ShaneTierney)
  16. 21
    Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho (chrissybob)
    chrissybob: Similar views on mental health
  17. 11
    Cancer Ward by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (fundevogel)
  18. 11
    Crash Gordon and the Mysteries of Kingsburg by Derek Swannson (jasbro)
  19. 11
    War Story by Derek Robinson (Polaris-)
  20. 13
    The House of God by Samuel Shem (mcenroeucsb)

(see all 22 recommendations)

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» See also 768 mentions

English (363)  Swedish (4)  Norwegian (2)  Danish (2)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (1)  Italian (1)  Catalan (1)  German (1)  Hebrew (1)  Russian (1)  All languages (379)
Showing 1-5 of 363 (next | show all)
M.A.S.H., by Franz Kafka.

(I know, I know, it's pilots, not medics, but still.) ( )
1 vote MeditationesMartini | Sep 21, 2016 |
Not my favorite by a long-shot. It was long-drawn out and probably somewhere in here I would have stated that it was a half-way decent book. It took me over a month to finish and to me that is torture. I guess it was not for me! ( )
  Angel.Carter | Aug 11, 2016 |
I think this is definitely a book that should be read when young. Re-reading it I just felt it went on and on, and I got so irritated I abandoned it half-way through. ( )
  mlfhlibrarian | Jul 10, 2016 |
I cannot say whether I liked the book or disliked it, but I know that it shook me with laughter, it stirred me to anger, and it moved me to tears.
Catch-22 is an anti-war novel. It challenges the conventional trope of the war novel by questioning every holy cow of war: heroism, patriotism, nationalism, military duty, and a willingness to lay down ones’ life for one’s country. And it does this in a uniquely original style of writing. It uses humour, irony, sarcasm and satire to reveal the ugly underbelly of war . It subsumes the horror, the pain, the violence of war by painting it in a cartoonish light. Gallows humour, actually. It subverts the glory of war by its stark pictures of what war does to women and children.
The main character is Yossarian who has developed a fear of flying and is livid with anger that the senior brass keeps raising the number of missions to be flown before any of them can be sent home. At the start of the book, the number of flying missions required was 30, after which they were entitled to a reprieve. By the end of the book, the number required is 80, so none of them have been sent back from the front. On the contrary many of Yossarian’s friends have died. One sad truth of war is that it’s mostly the young men who die. The older brass, like Colonels and Generals are not required to do duty at the front.
The book is written with a circular structure—the action seems to go round and round in circles without getting to the point of it all, much like the circular logic of Catch-22 itself. The core issue in the novel is the death of 2 airmen, Mudd, the dead man in Yossarian’s tent, and Snowden. Though their deaths are introduced early on in the book, yet the text dances around them, it shadow boxes around them, and the events in their entirety are made known to the reader only half way through the book in the case of Mudd, and at the end of the book in the case of Snowden.
There are a large number of characters in the book, all outlandishly drawn, grotesquely cartoonish. Heller lampoons these characters, and the reader is kept laughing through the first half of the book, but at the same time unveiling to the reader that all is not well under the surface. The idyllic surroundings notwithstanding, there is something rotten brewing under the surface of the US 256th Air Force Squadron posted in Pianosa. Most of the characters are debased. Colonel Cathcart, the Generals Dreedle and Peckem, PFC Wintergreen, Aarfy, and of course, Milo Minderbinder, are out to get what they can from the war for their personal benefit. Colonel Cathcart does not give a fig for the lives of his men who’re being sent to fly far more missions than required under the rules, purely so that he gets the name and fame. His orders are to bomb the targets in such a fashion as to get good aerial photographs which can then be published in the newspapers for his own self-glorification, instead of destroying the enemy target that’s been set for the sortie. Milo Minderbinder is a profiteer and the most perfidious of them all; he has no compunctions about doing business with the enemy, even to the extent of bombing his own squadron, for filthy lucre.
While the book starts light-heartedly, with the kind of humour men indulge in when there are a large number of them thrown together in one place, and no relieving presence of women, the second half of the book is darkly tragic, and leaves the reader hurting. And angry. At the waste of life, at the moral turpitude of bureaucracy, at the perfidy of the top defence brass, at the constant presence of death (In Catch-22, Time is not the enemy, nor is the Enemy the enemy, it is your own senior officers who are putting your life on the block, that is the enemy.)
Heller taught Literature at an American university, so there are many literary references in the novel: T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land, Shakespeare’s Shylock, Doestoevsky’s Raskolnikov, and so on. Towards the end of the book, Yossarian is back in Rome, the Eternal City, seeking to rescue Nately’s whore’s sister. But the city is a Hell. This episode is reminiscent of Dante’s entering into Hell—the images of gut wrenching violence, pain, brutality that is described can be understood as an allegory for Allegheri’s Inferno. (Couldn’t resist the pun)
When his senior brass realises that he’s adamant about not flying any more sorties, they offer Yossarian a choice between court-martial and a conditional honourable release, the condition being that he would speak well about his seniors and give publicity to laud their achievements. Yossarian initially agrees, but realises that by accepting such caveats, he is denigrating the risks taken by his entire team, and diminishing the value of the lives lost in combat. So he decides to desert.
By the end of the book the reader realises the mutability of values; that beyond a point one has a duty to one self, and the responsibility to save one’s life from an unnecessary death. ( )
1 vote dragon178 | Jun 16, 2016 |
At first, I honestly had no clue what was happening in this book so I put it down for quite some time. Upon picking it back up, I realized it was so ridiculous that is is possibly the only accurate novel on war. ( )
  bleached | May 28, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 363 (next | show all)
"A wild, moving, shocking, hilarious, raging, exhilarating, giant roller-coaster of a book"
added by GYKM | editNew York Herald Tribune
"the best novel to come out in years"
added by GYKM | editThe Nation
"doesn't even seem to be written; instead, it gives the impression of having been shouted onto paper.... what remains is a debris of sour jokes"
added by GYKM | editThe New Yorker
This kind of magnificent illogic whips like a mistral all through the novel, blowing both sequence and motivation into a rubble of farcical shocks and grisly surprises. Catch-22 is held together only by the inescapable fact that Joseph Heller is a superb describer of people and things... Heller's talent is impressive, but it also is undisciplined, sometimes luring him into bogs of boring repetition... but an overdose of comic non sequitur and an almost experimental formlessness are not enough to extinguish the real fire of Catch-22.
added by jjlong | editTime (Oct 27, 1961)
"Catch-22," by Joseph Heller, is not an entirely successful novel. It is not even a good novel by conventional standards. But there can be no doubt that it is the strangest novel yet written about the United States Air Force in World War II. Wildly original, brilliantly comic, brutally gruesome, it is a dazzling performance that will probably outrage nearly as many readers as it delights. In any case, it is one of the most startling first novels of the year and it may make its author famous.
added by Shortride | editThe New York Times, Orville Prescott (pay site) (Oct 23, 1961)

» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Heller, Josephprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bradbury, MalcolmIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Buckley, ChristopherIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ceserani, RemoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kliphuis, J.F.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lahtela, MarkkuTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Packer, NeilIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Szilágyi TiborTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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There was only one catch... and that was Catch-22.

This island of Pianosa lies in the Mediterranean Sea eight miles south of Elba. It is very small and obviously could not accommodate all of the actions described. Like the setting of this novel, the characters, too, are fictitious.
To Candida Donadio, literary agent, and Robert Gottlieb, editor. Colleagues.
To my mother
and to Shirley
and my children, Erica and Ted
First words
It was love at first sight.
They had not brains enough to be introverted and repressed.
There was only one catch, and that was Catch-22.
The enemy is anybody who’s going to get you killed, no matter which side he’s on.
"Sure, that's what I mean," Doc Daneeka said. "A little grease is what makes this world go round. One hand washes the other. Know what I mean? You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours."

Yossarian knew what he meant.

"That's not what I meant," Doc Daneeka said, as Yossarian began scratching his back.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (3)

Book description
This is the story of Yossarian, a man trying to survive during WW2. Unable to go home because he hasnt completed enough missions he tries to get himself deemed ill which he can't do because he hasn't been sick. 

Reading books in uncomfortable situations often affect how you like and remember books. That's what happened with this book. I just got confused a lot. It was also really difficult to read on the computer for 8 straight hours. That wasn't a good plan.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0684833395, Paperback)

There was a time when reading Joseph Heller's classic satire on the murderous insanity of war was nothing less than a rite of passage. Echoes of Yossarian, the wise-ass bombardier who was too smart to die but not smart enough to find a way out of his predicament, could be heard throughout the counterculture. As a result, it's impossible not to consider Catch-22 to be something of a period piece. But 40 years on, the novel's undiminished strength is its looking-glass logic. Again and again, Heller's characters demonstrate that what is commonly held to be good, is bad; what is sensible, is nonsense.

Yossarian says, "You're talking about winning the war, and I am talking about winning the war and keeping alive."
"Exactly," Clevinger snapped smugly. "And which do you think is more important?"
"To whom?" Yossarian shot back. "It doesn't make a damn bit of difference who wins the war to someone who's dead."
"I can't think of another attitude that could be depended upon to give greater comfort to the enemy."
"The enemy," retorted Yossarian with weighted precision, "is anybody who's going to get you killed, no matter which side he's on."
Mirabile dictu, the book holds up post-Reagan, post-Gulf War. It's a good thing, too. As long as there's a military, that engine of lethal authority, Catch-22 will shine as a handbook for smart-alecky pacifists. It's an utterly serious and sad, but damn funny book.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:09 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

The story of a group of fliers in the Mediterranean during World War II, and their struggles with the psychological stresses of combat and military life.

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