Today’s Birthday May 1: US author Joseph Heller (1923-1999).
Joseph Heller gained world fame with his satirical, anti-war novel Catch 22, set in World War II Italy.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, on May 1, 1923, he was the son of poor Jewish parents.
After graduating from Abraham Lincoln High School in 1941, Heller went on to fly B-25s during World War II.
After being discharged, the aspiring writer studied at the University of Southern California, New York University, Columbia and Oxford and began to write short fiction.
He later became an English instructor at Pennsylvania State University between 1950 and 1952.
After stints as an advertising copywriter, Heller went on to publish his most famous novel Catch 22 in 1961.
Partly based on his own experiences during the war, the novel tells the story of Captain Joseph Yossarian’s attempts to avoid serving in World War II by feigning insanity.
The book went on to influence Robert Altman’s 1970 comedy M*A*S*H, and the subsequent TV series.
In addition to novels, he went on to write stage plays, screenplays, short stories, articles, memoirs and reviews.
After Heller recovered from the neurological disease Guillain-Barre syndrome, which struck him in 1986, he wrote an autobiographical account, No Laughing Matter, about his battle against the illness.
His second autobiography Now and Then: From Coney Island to Here was a memoir of his boyhood experiences growing up on Coney Island and was published in 1998.
Heller died in his home on December 12, 1999, of a heart attack, aged 76.
His final book, Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man, was published posthumously in 2000.