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Joseph Heller - Author of 'Catch-22' - Dies

Joseph Heller, the man who coined the phrase ‘catch-22’ for a no-win situation in his epic war novel has died at the age of 76.

Heller wrote the famous anti-war novel ‘Catch-22’ in 1961 and while it was initially dismissed by critics it was later hailed as one of the best novels of the century by the Modern library earlier this year.

Heller died at his New York home of a heart attack on Monday.

Catch-22 describes a Second World War situation in which a bomber tries desperately to avoid the horrors of war. For the central character the ‘catch-22’ is when he claims he is too insane to fly any more but is in turn told by the military that anybody trying to avoid combat must be sane.

Hence the lose-lose catch-22.

The novel – which elicited a range of reviews – and the 1970 film from the novel made Heller a millionaire.

Heller published a second novel after ‘Catch-22’ titled ‘Something Happened’ – a dark look at a man who is unaware he is having an emotional breakdown – arrived in 1974. This was followed by ‘Good as Gold’ in 1979, ‘God Knows’ in 1984, ‘No Laughing Matter’ in 1986 and ‘Picture This’, a memoir, in 1998.

A sequel to ‘Catch-22’ – ‘Closing Time’ – was published in 1994. None of these novels had the spectacular success of ‘Catch-22’.

Joseph Heller was born May 1, 1923, in New York City and after school joined the Air Force as a bomber. He flew more than 60 bombing missions. After the War Heller earned a Bachelor of Arts from New York University in 1948, a Master of Arts from Columbia University in 1949 and a Fulbright Scholarship to Oxford University.

He taught at a number of universities, wrote advertising copy for Time and Look magazines and worked in television and screen-writing.

For three years he suffered from a rare paralysing disease called called Guillain-Barre syndrome which rendered him unable to move or swallow.

He completely recovered and was 76 years old when he died.


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