Saturday, 31 March 2018

Review of Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

A novel released in 1961. Catch-22. It wasn't my plan to read this book at all. Somebody gave me its paperback and I was intrigued. And when I realized that the book was an intellectual paradox, I was challenged. So I kept on reading and I discovered gold. Actually scratch that. I discovered a rare gem that is one of a kind. I fell in love with this timeless monument of war.



Blurb:




The novel is set during World War II, from 1942 to 1944. It mainly follows the life of Captain John Yossarian, a U.S. Army Air Forces B-25 bombardier. Most of the events in the book occur while the fictional 256th Squadron is based on the island of Pianosa, in the Mediterranean Sea, west of Italy. The novel looks into the experiences of Yossarian and the other airmen in the camp, who attempt to maintain their sanity while fulfilling their service requirements so that they may return home. 


My Review:


World war 2 is history to me. Fortunately, I have never lived through a war. The Kargil War was the only one fought after I was born that I know that aftereffects of  and I was only 2. So, I understand war only by definition. Catch 22 was my first war novel and I'll forever remember it.

When I started this book, I was engrossed in its humor. The book is a self proclaimed satire. And Joseph Heller has done a fab job with words. The is no doubt that the book is brilliantly written. One of the best, unique writing styles I've ever come across. It wouldn't be wrong to say that Catch 22 was built by irony and satire with intention being the icing on the cake.

The book also has a very slow build up. I took a month to read this novel and that is a record. I've never taken so long to finish a book. Hell, I've never even surpassed a week! But, this time was demanded by the book. To understand its essence, live with it, see the pain in every joke, and laugh through a gruesome era of humanity. The book didn't invoke pity in me, it made me contemplate. It made me question morals, values, right, wrong, war, peace, loyalty, self preservation, and so much more. I didn't read Catch-22, I lived it.

You can't help but fall in love with Yossarian. He's a witty, sly, charming, loyal survivor. Throughout the novel, we see different shades of him. But his true character shines out in the end. Yossarian was truly a delightful change from alpha characters who fight the war till their dying breath. I've always come across heroes who think that it's better to die in the battlefield than live a coward. And I dutifully accepted the analogy. But, Yossarian made me question myself, my thoughts about cowardice. Who is a coward anyway? I never for a minute thought Yossarian was one, despite his defiance in flying more missions. I could relate with him. If I ever will be a soldier, I probably would be like him. Why is it wrong to save yourself? His last conversation with Major Danby explains it for us.

Among the battalion of characters my favourites were Nately, the old man in Rome, Milo, Orr, Chaplain, Major Major and Dobbs. I'd also like to mention Nately's Whore. That girl was the best! She made the best assassin in the history.

I loved Milo and his cunning until the the chapter - 'Milo the militant'. After that I was completely disgusted by him. But Milo is Milo and he always thinks about himself in the name of the syndicate. Anyway, I don't know where to begin when I talk about these people. Each one were brave, selfish, loyal, weird, unique and I loved them all. I hated how their individual stories ended. When I was just about to cry injustice and throw the book over, I read the chapter 'Yo-Yo's Roomies'. This quote, I think, explains the life of a soldier during the war in a nutshell.

".... It was not their fault that they were young and cheerful..... He wished that he could be young and cheerful, too. And it wasn't their fault that they were courageous, confident and carefree. He would have to be patient with them until one or two were killed and the rest wounded, and then they would all turn out okay."

Words are inexplicable when it comes to how much I loved this book. I feel like I'll carry a piece of this always. It made me laugh throughout, and taught me the heavy lesson of war via that laughter.

My mother once said that the Indian epic 'Mahabharata' is so well liked because, it is not a story of Gods, but the story of humans in all their forms. You can find all types of people you encounter in real life in the epic. Today, I feel the same way about Catch-22. I think the book will teach you whatever lesson are looking for. It'll come across different to different people, because it's not a story about an absolute person. It's about personalities. It's about war.

I would suggest everyone to read this book or at least attempt to. If you power through it's crazy, interlocked narration, you will unlock an excellent book the likes of which can hardly be found again.




My Rating:




Like I prattled on in my review, Catch-22 is a diamond of the fresh water. I will never forget the experience of reading this book. I give this book 6 stars!
In the end I will take the advice what the Major Danby gives to Yossarian - Jump!





Favourite Quotes: 




Some of the quotes that left me chuckling or contemplating are -

"He was working hard at increasing his life span. He did it by cultivating boredom."

"The Texan turned out to be good-natured, generous and likable. In three days no one could stand him."

"Colonel Cathcart was infused with the democratic spirit: he believed all men were created equal, and therefore spurned all men outside Group Headquarters with equal fervour."

"Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them. With Major Major it had been all three."

“General Peckem even recommends that we send our men into combat in full dress uniform so they'll make a good impression on the enemy when they are shot down." 

"It's not the dream, Dunbar," Yossarian explained. "He likes your dream. It's my personality. He thinks its split."

"With a devotion to purpose above and beyond the line of duty, he had raised the price of food in his mess halls so high that officers and enlisted men had to turn over all their pay to him in order to eat. Their alternative, of course, since Milo detested coercion and was a vocal champion of freedom of choice-was to starve."

"The country was in peril; he was jeopardizing his traditional rights of freedom and independence by daring to exercise them."

"I'm not running away from my responsibilities. I'm running to them. There's nothing negative about running away to save my life." 

"He was working hard at increasing his life span. He did it by cultivating boredom."

"The Texan turned out to be good-natured,  generous and likable. In three days no one could stand him."

"Colonel Cathcart was infused with the democratic spirit : he believed all men were created equal, and therefore spurned all men outside Group Headquarters with equal fervor."

"Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them. With Major Major it had been all three."

" General Peckem even recommends that we send our men into combat in full dress uniform so they'll make a good impression on the enemy when they are shot down." 

"It's not the dream, Dunbar," Yossarian explained. "He likes your dream. It's my personality. He thinks it's split."

"With a devotion to purpose above and beyond the line of duty, he had raised the price of food in his mess halls so high that officers and enlisted men had to turn over all their pay to him in order to eat. Their alternative, of course, since Milo detested coercion and was a vocal champion of freedom of choice-was to starve."

"The country was in peril; he was jeopardizing his traditional rights of freedom and independence by daring to exercise them."

"I'm not running away from my responsibilities. I'm running to them. There's nothing negative about running away to save my life." 


Chao!
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