“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22. 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.”
Over and over again, we’ve read books and have seen documentaries about the horrors of World War II. Nevertheless, none that I read or watched approached it like Heller.
A historical fiction filled with lots of dark humour, Catch 22 is Heller’s way of expressing his feelings about the war in a satirical manner. Heller does it well perhaps because he’d been in the war himself and flew 60 combat missions.
We follow the journey of the protagonist, Yossarian and his cohorts.
It’s fair to say that the narrative is out of sequence. There’s a continuous alternation between past and present and characters’ point of view. Some chapters I enjoyed more than others finding them brilliant and hilarious. This structure can at times get repetitive, perhaps reflecting Yossarian’s frustration at being trapped in his perpetual catch 22, but this can be a struggle for the reader. I always felt that after a few chapters I got distracted and needed a break from it. I think it’s best read alongside another book.
As a result this book felt like a jigsaw puzzle. Only at the end everything that you’ve read pieces together and leaves you quite in awe and with plenty of food for thought.
“That’s some catch, that Catch-22,”
“It’s the best there is.”
Towards the end, Heller leaves the dark humour aside and presents us with the realities of the war. Chapter 39, The Eternal City, is as breathtaking in its writing style as it is heartbreaking.
Funny though tragic, brilliant but enigmatic, this modern classic manages to place you as a witness to war’s injustices, and it’s a reminder that we should always be grateful for our freedom even though it might not seem like it now. I’m sure staying indoors is safer than living in a time of war.
Review by guest writer Doris Huzum