Catch-22 by Joseph Heller – Reviewed by Guy Portman
Set on the Mediterranean island of Pianosa during WWII, Catch-22 is about the exploits of the fictitious 256th Squadron. We follow protagonist Yossarian and his comrades’ farcical attempts to be declared mentally unfit in order to avoid the bombing runs, which they believe to be suicidal. To exacerbate matters, the number of missions required to be flown before becoming eligible for retirement are relentlessly increased.
The third person narrative describes the events from the points of view of the legion of characters, who include amoral businessman Milo Minderbinder, and the blight upon Yossarian’s existence that is the sycophantic, power-obsessed Colonel Cathcart, as well as the passive Anabaptist minister Chaplain Tappman, and Yossarian’s friends, Nately, Dobbs and Kid Sampson. Towards the end of the book matters become more serious as we are exposed to the full horrors of war.
Catch-22 is a satire whose central theme is the futility of war. The book employs a distinctive writing style, an innovative out of sequence narration of events, imaginative descriptions, paradox and grandiloquent language. Whilst this avid fan of satire appreciated the subject matter, the relentless ludicrousness, absence of a meaningful plot, overabundance of characters and the text’s length (over 500 pages) made reading, what in his humble opinion is a rambling text, an arduous challenge.