Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Catch-22


Yossarian, Yossarian, Yossarian,

Oh, How I've struggled to finish this novel. Many times I wish I would've seen that escape to Sweden. If I only had the courage to take up the little plastic blue paddle and went on my way.

“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.
"That's some catch, that Catch-22," he observed.
"It's the best there is," Doc Daneeka agreed.” 

Catch-22 - a paradoxical situation from where a person can't escape due to contradictory rules.

This novel is filled with situations just like described above. Filled with desperate and fruitless scenes in which the author glorifies the meaningless of warfare.
Its endless bureaucracy and idiocy is beyond marvel and the only one steadfastly going about his business is the main character Yossarian.
We never learn his first name, we only learn everything else. His wants, his needs, his fears, his ultimate victory.
Set during WWII Yossarian is part of a division set in a fictional town, Pianosa, in Italy. He's there as bombardier, due to fly a certain number of missions before he can be sent home again.

In the beginning of the novel it is pretty apparent  that Yossarian doesn't want to fly anymore, while his superiors are asking more and more combat missions from them. Every time he gets near the number needed to be sent home, the number goes up. Its an endless cycle in which Yossarian and the rest of the crew are stuck.
The reason why he doesn't want to be up in the air anymore is pretty simple, because he is afraid to die.

While he is coming to terms of maybe never being sent home, due the number of fly missions needed always ends up increasing, we get to know the people around him.
They're not a pretty lot and almost everyone is either screwed up or being screwed up by their superiors. It reads like a ghoulish nightmare where you can't believe thing happen the way they do.

But, if you are old enough, you know just how screwed up things can get in real life too. So, it just has that tinge of reality around it, that makes this novel easier to digest. If it hadn't had that smudge of recognition in it, this novel would've been impossible to read.

Although, I've never had any novel where I've noted down so many quotes. It's a goldmine of wonderfully constructed sentences, but I've come to learn that when the story, in which such virtuoso is being inserted, lacks in meaning, its wonder is diminished. You could compare it with finding a diamond in the sand, its almost too good to be true and you'll feel extraordinary to be the one to find that diamond. But if you're in a jewelry story, surrounded by the most beautifully cut diamonds, it doesn't have the same appeal as that one crude diamond on the beach.
It's the same with words, sentences, whole chapters. Yossarian is a crazy character and I don't think I'll find anyone like him in literature again, but I think that's a good thing. He's just a little too much for me and even though I'm pleased to have finished his novel, I don't think I'll ever read it again.
Some things in life you only want to experience once.

Still, I can't say its a 'no good' novel, because it isn't. It's one everyone just at least try to read.
Ever had that feeling when you are feeling something or seeing something and you sense that no one around really understands what is going on. In Catch-22 that feeling is multiplied by a thousand and you'll feel like no one understood you better. It's darn thing to read and it might take a while to finish, but it will be a challenge to find another novel that will make you feel that it's got it down to a T.

“He had decided to live forever or die in the attempt.” 
And that's Catch-22 self-explained.

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