My big read: Catch 22

29th August 2003 at 01:00

Catch-22
By Joseph Heller

Until the mid-Fifties, Second World War stories were largely conventional. Lips were stiff and upper, bravery was unquestioned, loyalty was all. There were blood and guts a-plenty, but they were spilt for a noble cause.

So Catch-22 , published in 1955, was doubly shocking. Not only was it cynical about war itself, it was also cynicalnbsp; and, worse, outrageously funny, about the Great American Values for which, apparently, men fought it.

Superficially, it is about a US bomber unit on a small Italian island in 1944. The Germans still hold the industrial north: cue heroism. But Yossarian, the bomb-aimer who has to lead the other pilots to the flak-protected targets, doesn't want to be a hero.

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