‘Catch-22‘ is a book that has penetrated the consciousness of an entire generation. Bursting onto the scene as it did in 1961, it gave vent to Heller’s anti-war and anti-government feelings, a by-product, he said, ‘of the Korean War and the 1950’s.’ Considered one of the best satirical works ever, (a distinction thoroughly deserved), ‘Catch-22’ is a book that stays with you a long while after.
Set during World War II, the book flows the exploits of Captain John Yossarian, a U.S Air Forces B-25 bombardier, stationed in Pianosa, an island to the west of Italy. Let me just stick to my reading experience here. Firstly, I have to admit that I tried reading it twice before, with unsuccessful results. The first few chapters simply didn’t draw me in enough and since the genre was completely new, I lacked enough initiative to continue. But faced with the direst of situations any book-lover can, the absence of a new book (!), I finally found motivation to persevere on. And boy, am I glad I did!
The reading experience was quite unlike any other.
For those new to the genre, the initial chapters make you wonder what it is all about. Set in a non-linear perspective, with varying accounts of the most random people ever, connected by the unlikeliest of threads, the book leaves you befuddled. But a few more chapters is all it takes to get used to this structure of free association, where random ideas are connected to keep the continuity going. And it is exactly this structure that you find yourself falling in love with over the course of your reading.
Satire-Oh such glorious satire!
I cannot tell you how refreshing it is to be able to read such a thoroughly honest piece of satire as this. The basic premise of ‘Catch-22’ is absurdity. Or so you might think. The same absurdity that causes you to laugh aloud initially makes you recoil in horror later. The same lack of empathy in satire and the same disregard to violence that you found funny initially leaves you disturbed later. And this, I think, is the triumph of ‘Catch-22’, to make you switch between two such varying states of feelings within the course of a book.
Happy Reading, you all.