Catch-22 is a satirical novel set during World War II, written by American author Joseph Heller. First published in 1961, it has been widely hailed as one of the great novels of the 20th century. The term “Catch-22” refers to a recurring plot device in the novel, a paradoxical statement of double bind logic. The phrase has entered into the English language, in which a person cannot escape from a logical paradox. One example would be: one needs experience in order to get a job, but one must have a job in order to gain experience.
The novel revolves largely around Captain John Yossarian, an Army Air Corps pilot stationed in the Mediterranean. As a member of the fictional 256th Squadron, Yossarian and his comrades attempt to keep themselves sane in the insanity of war. In the novel, the logic of the Catch-22 is that any person deemed crazy cannot fly missions, but that applying to stop flying on the basis of insanity proves that one is actually sane.
The structure of the book is largely non-linear, often telling the same story from different points of view. Logical irrationality and paradox are frequent themes as well. Heller also deliberately inserts anachronisms into the book as well, to represent the 1950s when it was written. Original reviews were mixed, and the book never received any awards, yet it has come to be regarded as a classic of American literature, with a large cult following.