Wednesday, November 3, 2010


This classical and historical work of fiction was written by Joseph Heller more than a half century ago and got published 50 years back. I was in existence then and might have just started learning A, B, C, D... It is only now, after more than 50 years of my existence, and 10 years after the author is no more that I had the good fortune of reading it, having been forced by my elder son. I completed first reading of the book only yesterday. Full of exceptional and outstanding humour and satire, it is a very serious work. It brings out the fallacies and depravity of the modern human civilisation in no uncertain manner. It clearly shows those who would care to see what a non-sense all our endeavours are. This novel was acclaimed as a great work and tens of millions have read it, yet we continue to be more depraved than ever. This only reconfirms what Heller had to say about the human world more than 50 years back.

Catch-22 ridicules wars, our bureaucratic systems, our trading systems, above all our hypocrisy that manifests itself in all our endeavours. It is a great caricature of modern society. We would acclaim the work but won't follow it or learn from it. Hypocrisy again. For a sane person it is always a catch-22 situation. About my recent and till date failed efforts to free IRSS (Indian Railways Stores Service) from the professional harakiri being committed by my colleagues happily just because it helps them satisfy their wives and bring up their children better, Heller had this to say 50 years back, ".... Someone had to do something sometime. Every victim was a culprit, every culprit a victim, and somebody had to stand up sometime to try to break the lousy chain of inherited habit that was imperiling them all...." These are excerpts from chapter 39 'The eternal city' of the book. But alas! my peers, seniors and juniors probably are not capable of even comprehending it.

No doubt, the book is quite repetitive and boring at times and it was a pain for a lazy person like me to go through 570 pages, but I salute Joseph Hellar for such a great satire and meaningful message about meaninglessness of what all goes around us and thank my son for having made me read this great work.

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