Catch 22 author Heller 'enjoyed' army service

By Jennifer Lipman, October 27, 2011

The author of one of the most famous books ever written criticising war was actually excited to serve in the army.

Joseph Heller, whose novel Catch 22 is seen to this day as a vital part of the anti-war literature canon, did not share the attitude of the book's protagonist, Captain Yossarian.

Mr Heller's view, that serving in the military was glamorous, was revealed in letters written to Professor James Nagel in 1974 about his military service. The correspondence, which is to be auctioned this week to mark the 50th anniversary of the book's publication, also revealed that Yossarian was not intended to be Jewish.

Mr Heller said in one of the letters: "I felt much differently about the war than Yossarian felt and much differently than I felt when I wrote the novel.

"In truth, I enjoyed it, and so did just about everyone else I served with, in training and even in combat."

Heller added, "I was young, it was adventurous, there was much hoopla and glamour."

In the other letter he said of Yossarian that while he was not written as Jewish "no effort was expended to make him anything else."

Mr Heller, who was born to Russian Jewish parents in Brooklyn, served in the US army during the Second World War.

Last updated: 3:37pm, October 27 2011