Joseph Heller's Catch-22: A novel of twisted logic and absurd bureaucracy

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"That’s some Catch, that Catch 22". It’s a novel that gave rise to a new term in the English language and gave voice to American soldiers serving in Vietnam in the 1960s. Since its publication in 1961, Catch-22, Joseph Heller’s best-selling novel, has not only come to symbolise the cynical self-serving aspect of war run as a business, but also the way an ordinary person can be trapped and controlled by bureaucracy and social rules, in whatever area of life. It’s a novel that’s sold tens of millions of copies, and it continues to engage new readers. So, what is the secret of its success? Bridget Kendall is joined by the American novelist and friend of Joseph Heller, Christopher Buckley; Dr Beci Carver, lecturer in 20th century literature at Exeter University, whose forthcoming book is Modernism’s Whims; and Tracy Daugherty, author of Just One Catch: A Biography of Joseph Heller, and Emeritus Professor at Oregon State University in the US. With the contribution of Patricia Chapman Meder, the author of The True Story of Catch-22, whose father was the inspiration for Colonel Cathcart, Heller’s commander who kept increasing the number of flight missions. Produced by Anne Khazam for the BBC World Service. (Photo: An early edition of Joseph Heller’s novel Catch 22. Credit: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images)

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