'Catch-22' by Joseph Heller Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

'Catch-22' by Joseph Heller

10 Conversations

Catch-22, the concept, was immortalized in one of the greatest novels of the 20th Century.

The novel of that name was written by Joseph Heller (1923 - 1999), who stated that Catch-22 'specified that a concern for one's own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind'. In his novel, this meant that an airman might be crazy and could be grounded; all he had to do was ask. But if he did ask, he was deemed sane and so had to keep flying. He might be crazy to fly more missions, and sane if he didn't - but if he was sane, he had to fly them.

This simple, sophisticated and horrible definition of an inescapable and self-contradictory nightmare has been much used since - and much misused, too. It has come to represent many of the contradictions of 'advanced capitalism' - if you work hard, you will earn your leisure; but you will be lonely and friendless, and have destroyed so much of the planet that leisure is something you cannot afford or enjoy.

Interestingly, all Heller's subsequent work has been compared unfavourably with his masterpiece. However, his response when told he had never written a better novel than Catch-22 was 'Nobody else has, either.'

Bookmark on your Personal Space

Edited Entry


Infinite Improbability Drive

Infinite Improbability Drive

Read a random Edited Entry

Categorised In:

Written by

Write an Entry

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. It has been compiled and recompiled many times and under many different editorships. It contains contributions from countless numbers of travellers and researchers."

Write an entry
Read more