Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Catch-22: Is the novel still relevant to modern soldiers?

The classic novel that coined the term describing impossible situations is celebrating its 50th birthday. So how close does Catch-22 come to accurately portraying today's military?

Most people will have uttered a remark about being caught between a rock and a hard place, in a Catch-22 situation. A no-win dilemma where you're damned if you do and damned if you don't.

But fewer people will have read the 1961 novel of the same name that propelled the phrase into the English language.

Catch-22 was published 50 years ago. Written by Joseph Heller, it describes the wartime experiences of B-25 bombardier, Captain John Yossarian. Heller himself had served as a US Air Force bombardier in World War II.

He drags us through the muck and absurdity of a droll group of WWII airmen stationed on a small island off the coast of Tuscany - taking in the dark and brutal nature of war. In it hero Yossarian takes drastic measures to avoid flying an ever-increasingly required number of dangerous missions.

The only way to avoid such deadly assignments was to plead insanity, but to do so exposed a desire to live - a core aspect of the sane. more