a novel by Joseph Heller, published in 1961. Heller's first and finest novel, it is generally regarded as one of the greatest comic works of postwar American fiction. It is equally often seen as a powerful expression of anti-war sentiment, but its concerns, as many critics have noted, are as much with the relationship of the individual to society as they are with the nature of war and patriotism. Much of the novel is set in an American airforce base on an imaginary Mediterranean island and is structured around a bomber squadron's missions during the Italian campaign of 1943–4; this, however, is essentially a background against which Heller creates a remarkable gallery of comic characters, most of them satirizing some salient aspect of American life: business enterprise, capitalism, the civil and military bureaucracy, the patriotic spirit among them. The famous philosophical ‘catch’ of the title, a paradox, is explained by one of the novel's characters, Doc Daneeka: ‘Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn't really crazy’; and the novel's hero, Yossarian, spends much of his time trying to escape the remorseless grip in which ‘catch-22’ holds him.