WASHINGTON (AFP) - Hyper-cynical anti-war novel Catch-22 turns 50 next month, and Joseph Heller must be chortling in his grave over how apropos the phrase he coined remains today from the US jobs crisis to a bottomless war in Afghanistan.
In addition to a fresh edition of the novel, publishers have rolled out new books to coincide with the anniversary including a major Heller biography and a memoir by his daughter.
The absurdist, often cartoonish story, about a hard-to-kill World War II pilot stationed on a small Mediterranean island and trapped in a perverse bureaucratic cycle, has sold more than 10 million copies and introduced to the English lexicon one of the most penetrating new phrases of the 20th Century.
Released at the dawn of the 1960s, Catch-22 seemed to foretell the ghastly war in Vietnam, and prophesied a counter-culture spirit that would dominate the last half of the decade.
Despite its slow pacing and repetitiveness, remarkably, college students are still reading it, said Tracy Daugherty, a professor of English at Oregon State University and author of this years Just One Catch, a major new biography of Heller.
But the basic situation an average person caught in a maddening bureaucratic nightmare still resonates, maybe more than ever as our institutions have only grown more bloated, he told AFP.
The novels catch anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isnt really crazy has rattled militaries worldwide for decades.
Daugherty said it is the people seeking to enter the US workforce who instantly relate to one of todays obvious logical impossibilities: to get a job, you need experience, but to get experience you need a job.
They live with that paradox every day, he said.
With Americas longest-ever war dragging into its 11th year in Afghanistan, officials sometimes get sucked into the pretzel logic about a conflict that from afar may look like an infinite loop.
On September 16, 2009, ex-soldier and former diplomat Rory Stewart, who walked across Afghanistan in early 2002 months after the US invasion, laid out what might well be the primary military Catch-22 scenario of the 21st Century:
You need to defeat the Taliban to build a state and you need to build a state to defeat the Taliban, Stewart told a US Senate hearing.