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Catch-22

Catch-22 is a 1961 novel by Joseph Heller about the madness of war. Specifically, it follows Yossarian[?] and a number of other American airmen during World War II, based on the island of Pianosa, south of Italy.

Within the book, catch-22 is the circular logic that prevents anyone from being excused from the military:

  • One may only be excused from flying bombing missions on the grounds of insanity
  • One must request to be excused

Should someone request to be excused, it is presumed that he must be in fear for his life. This is taken to be proof of sanity, and therefore he is obliged to continue flying missions.

If someone is truly insane, it is presumed that he would not make the request, and therefore would continue flying missions, even though technically he doesn't have to.

The phrase has become common to refer to any similar self-referential policy or any lose-lose situation.


Catch-22 is also a movie based on Heller's book, released in 1970 with a screenplay by Buck Henry[?]. The cast included Alan Arkin, Art Garfunkel, Bob Newhart, Anthony Perkins, Paula Prentiss[?], Jon Voight, and Orson Welles. The film was directed by Mike Nichols, it was not regarded as a great success earning less money and acclaim than MASH, which was released in the same year.



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