Catch 22: Read Before You View

In Features by Paula Hammond - Features Editor

This May, Joseph Heller’s dark, anti-war satire, Catch 22, gets the mini-series treatment, produced, directed, and starring George Clooney. 

While ostensibly about World War II, Heller actually wrote Catch 22 as a criticism of big government and the Korean War. The author’s free use of anachronisms and a circular storyline that retells events from three perspectives—often completing jokes that began in different narratives—gives the whole book has a surreal atmosphere, that perfectly captures ‘60s counter-culture.

Now, almost 50 years after its publication, Catch-22 is given a fittingly glorious home in an illustrated The Folio Society edition. Introduced by celebrated writer and critic Malcolm Bradbury, the volume gives fans the chance to dive into this classic and before the series airs.

First published in 1961, Heller’s withering satire continues to hit its target today. The novel marshals and exposes farcical bureaucracy, logistical confusion and a freak show of officers as dangerous as they are absurd: Major Major, the reclusive squadron commander who is bullied by his own men; the sadistic Colonel Cathcart, who keeps raising the number of missions required to complete a tour of duty; and the shameless capitalist Milo Minderbinder, who isn’t averse to bombing his own base in the name of profit. Watching in bewilderment as, one by one, his friends are killed in action, is Yossarian, the ultimate anti-hero, who resorts to ever more desperate measures to save himself from the same fate.

In an introduction that is as critically insightful as the novel is compelling, the late academic and celebrated novelist Malcolm Bradbury discusses the global heartbreak caused by two world wars, while reflecting on their transformative effect on art and literature.

Catch-22–-as no other novel before or since–-captures the manic energy and madness of war. Its skilful merging of horror, pathos and black humour could have made illustration a challenge, but not in the masterful hands of Neil Packer. His eight poster-inspired colour illustrations transform this cult classic into a stunning illustrated edition: an essential addition to any contemporary fiction collection.

The new Folio edition features nine glorious full-colour illustrations by Neil Packer. The images channel Tomi Ungerer’s Doctor Strangelove poster designs with the bold colours and clean lines of ‘60s American advertising. Tom has previously illustrated I, ClaudiusThe Name Of The Rose, One Hundred Years Of Solitude, and Foucault’s Pendulum (2016) for the Folio Society.

Production Details
Bound in blocked cloth. Set in Plantin with Stencil display, 272 pages printed endpapers and a printed slipcase. Priced at £39.95.

The Folio Society edition of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, introduced by Malcolm Bradbury and illustrated by Neil Packer is available exclusively from