LOS ANGELES, CA.-
Two Joseph Heller letters reminiscing on his epic war novel Catch-22 will be auctioned at Nate D. Sanders
Tuesday November 8, 2011 auction commemorating the 50th anniversary of the landmark war book. Heller wrote to Professor James Nagel of Northeastern University on March 13, 1974 regarding Catch-22 and his personal war experiences. Heller stated that he felt much differently about the war than Yossarian felt and much differently than I felt when I wrote the novel.
Heller added later in the letter, I was about thirty when I began thinking about Catch-22. These were the years of the cold war, the McCarthy period, the Eisenhower years, the Korean War, and it was a sensibility shaped by these factors that infused the book rather than my own literal experiences. The literary influences of which I was conscious from the beginning and throughout were Celine's Journey to the End of the Night, to which there is a stronger similarity in the early sections of Catch-22 than I intended (though not so strong a resemblance as Milton Hindus asserts in Mosiac, Spring 1973) and Nobokov's Laughter in the Dark, two books that just by chance happened to come into my hands almost successively. And almost immediately, it seems, the ideas for Catch-22 began parading through my mind. Falkner's [sic] Absolom! Absolom! and The Sound and the Fury, both of which I reread while planning, supplied separate ideas for the structure of different parts (I could specify but would rather not). And always present in my awareness, I believe, was T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland, which has had more to do, I believe, with shaping not merely the spirit but the structure of novels than is generally recognized. These were works that did, in one respect, or another, serve as actual models.
An earlier letter that Heller wrote to Professor Nagel dated August 17, 1972 talks about the lead character in Catch-22 Captain Yossarian. Heller typed, Yossarian isnt Jewish and was not intended to be; on the other hand, no effort was expended to make him anything else.
Both Heller letters are estimated to sell between $2,000 and $5,000.
The auction ends Tuesday, November 8, 2011 at 5 pm Pacific Standard Time.