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September 11th, 2019

Book #45: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller



Number of pages: 570

I studied this book at school, and felt the need to revisit it after seeing the miniseries earlier this year.

This is one of my all-time favorite books, focusing on a great anti-hero character, Yossarian, who will do anything to get out of flying missions in World War II.

This is a great piece of satire, mostly based around the notion that it is possible to ask to be grounded on insanity grounds to avoid having to fly missions, but doing so is a sign of being sane (because you'd have to be crazy to want to fly missions); thus it is impossible to be grounded for being insane.

The first half of the book seems to be all about introducing characters, and the plot doesn't move forward much for a while; I loved the way that all the main characters were given a detailed backstory, and it was easy to care about characters like Colonel Cathcart, who could easily be dismissed as loathable and villainous.

I also like the way this book manages to swing between farcical comedy and tragic moments. At times the comic elements almost get out of hand, as they highlight the absurdity of everything that is happening, but the book is also full of major character deaths, some of them very harrowing; for example, the death of Snowden, which is mentioned a lot, before being described in full detail near to the end.

This book is a little challenging, because it jumps back and forth in the timeline a lot, and tells some events more than once, from the points of view of different characters (this seems to be a Joseph Heller trademark). However, I always found it very satisfying at the end, mostly with its comments on pencil-pushing bureaucrats who did not fight on the front line, who have also been targeted by many great war poets. A recommended book.

Next book: Kim (Rudyard Kipling)

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