Joseph Heller had a remarkable life and recounted some of his amazing adventures in the classic Catch 22. The satirical novel recounts, in non-chronological style, Heller’s World War II experience and is frequently cited as one of the greatest American novels of the 20th century.
Despite the assumption that some may have — that a retelling of the violence Heller and his protagonist, John Yossarian, experienced would hold any pleasant memories — the writer seems to have been able to recount at least a few pleasant opinions of his tenure in the war.
According to the Guardian, a three-page-long typed letter written in 1974 contrasts his experience with that of Yossarian.
“How did I feel about the war when I was in it?” Heller wrote in the letter to an academic preparing a collection of essays about the book. “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; 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.”
Two of his letters to Nagel are up for auction by the Nate D. Sanders Online Auction House over the next two weeks, and are expected to fetch between $2,000 (£1,253) and $3,000. The 1974 letter cites Heller’s inspirations: Céline, Nabokov, Faulkner and — “always present in my awareness” — TS Eliot’s “The Waste Land.”
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