Catch-22 author admits war was fun
Oct 27, 2011, 10:51 GMT
Los Angeles - The author of the classic anti-war satire Catch-22 actually enjoyed the combat role in World War II that was the basis of his famous book, he wrote in a 1974 letter that was published this week by an online auction house.
Joseph Heller wrote the letter to Professor James Nagel in answer to a question the academic asked while preparing an anthology of articles about the world-famous novel in which the main character John Yossarian comes up with an endless variety of schemes to avoid going on missions as a bombardier.
Online auction house Nate D. Sanders Auctions is hoping to get between 2,000 and 3000 dollars for the letter, which revealed that Heller - who based Yossarian's character on his own experiences - actually enjoyed most of his wartime experiences.
'How did I feel about the war when I was in it?' he wrote. 'Much differently 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. I was young, it was adventurous, there was much hoopla and glamour.'
Heller, who was 19 when he enlisted after Pearl Harbour, said that the war was the last conflict that the US was united about. 'In addition, and this too is hard to get across to college students today, for me and for most others, going into the army resulted immediately in a vast improvement in my standard of living.'
His attitude, however, changed when his plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire and his turret-gunner was wounded on a mission to Avignon.
'On that one I was frightened for the very first time; I was frightened on the twenty-three afterward. By the time they were over, I felt lucky to be alive and wanted out as quickly as possible,' he wrote.
Heller confided that his attitude changed by the time he started writing the book in 1954 and during the eight years it took him to complete it.
'These were the years of the Cold War, the McCarthy period, the Eisenhower years, the Korean War, and it was a sensibility shaped by these factors that infused the book rather than my own literal experiences,' he wrote.