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Definition: Heller, Joseph from Philip's Encyclopedia

US writer. His first novel, Catch-22 (1961), was a brilliant satire on military administration. Other works include the play We Bombed in New Haven (1968) and the novels Something Happened (1974), God Knows (1984) and Closing Time (1994), a sequel to Catch-22.

Summary Article: Heller, Joseph
From Chambers Biographical Dictionary


US novelist

Born in Brooklyn, New York City, he served in the US army air force in World War II and drew on the experience for his black comedy, Catch-22 (1961), which is based on the simple premise that men on dangerous missions must be considered insane, and may therefore ask to be excused from duty, but by making the request they prove that they are sane and fit to fly. After selling slowly for some years it became an international bestseller and a byword for war's absurdity. Heller returned to the theme with a play, We Bombed in New Haven (1968). Later books - Something Happened (1974), Good as Gold (1979), God Knows (1984), a fictional monologue by the biblical King David, and Picture This (1988) - tended to receive churlish notices but are no less satiric, and the first is an Existentialist masterpiece. During the later period his output was hampered by a neurological ailment, described in his autobiographical account No Laughing Matter (with Speed Vogel, 1986). He published a sequel to Catch-22, entitled Closing Time, in 1994.

© Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd 2011

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