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Joseph Heller

Joseph Heller ca. 1954

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Joseph Heller (May 1, 1923 December 12, 1999) was an American satirical novelist and playwright. He wrote the influential Catch-22 about American servicemen during World War II. It was this work whose title (which was originally Catch-18) became the term commonly used to express absurdity in choice.

Heller is widely regarded as one of the best post-World War satirists. Although he is remembered mostly by his landmark Catch-22, his works, centered on the lives of various members of the middle classes, remain exemplars of modern satire.

Joseph Heller was born in Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, the son of poor Jewish parents. After graduating from Abraham Lincoln High School in 1941, Heller joined the Twelfth Air Force at age 19. He was stationed in Corsica, where he flew 60 combat missions as a B-25 bombardier. It was these experiences that later became the inspiration for his first novel, Catch-22. After the war, he studied English at the University of Southern California and NYU. In 1949, Heller received his M.A. from Columbia University. From 1949-1950, he was a Fulbright scholar at St Catherine's College in Oxford University. He returned to St Catherine's as a visiting Fellow, for a term, in 1991 and was appointed an Honorary Fellow of the college. Heller died in 1999.
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