Fifty years ago, a new phrase began to make its way into American conversations: “Catch-22.” Joseph Heller’s irreverent World War II novel ”” named for the now-famous paradox ”” was published on Oct. 11, 1961. His take on war meshed perfectly with the anti-authoritarian generation that came of age in the 1960s. And now, a half-century later, the predicament of a no-win trap still resonates with a new crop of young people distrustful of their elders.
In August 1944, Heller flew on a mission over the French town of Avignon. Sitting in the plexiglass nose cone of a B-25 bomber, Heller faced the very real possibility of death for the first time. That mission, says Heller biographer Tracy Daugherty, shaped the way Heller thought about war, a sensibility that permeates his novel.
“After that mission over Avignon, Heller really understood that this is not an abstraction,” Daugherty says. “They are out to kill me personally, and he didn’t like it ”” and Yossarian doesn’t either.”