Monday, 19 March 2012


Catch-22 is a satirical WWII novel about USAF Bombardier Yossarian and his desperate attempts to get grounded. The book's title is the name of a rule that stops Doc Daneeka signing Yossarian off as unfit for duty: if you think you're mad then you can't be mad (you're only really mad if you think you're sane and everyone else thinks you're mad).

It was a big read with parallel plot lines, chronology issues and fantasy sections that weren't everyone's cup of tea. In fact the majority of the group failed to finish either because of the time needed to crack the book or difficulties with the problems outlined above. It was definitely a Marmite experience; you loved it or hated it.

Our discussion centred on whether Yossarian was a mad man in a rational and logical war machine or the only sane man in a mad warmongering world. Heller certainly leaves it open to your own interpretation with Yossarian's disorganised rambling story.

Maybe the clincher is Yossarian's assertion that if someone's going to get killed why does it have to be him? A logical response maybe...

Click to read Shortlist magazine's review of 50 years of Catch-22

Click to listen to BBC Radio 4 Bookclub discuss Catch-22 with Joseph Heller (from 1999)

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