“IT WAS BOTH AN HONOR AND A SADNESS TO HEAR FROM SOMEONE WHO DID LEAVE THE COUNTRY RATHER THAN PARTICIPATE IN THIS WAR…”: EXTRAORDINARY LENGTHY TYPED LETTER SIGNED BY HELLER DISCUSSING THE COMPOSITION OF CATCH-22 AND DODGING THE DRAFT DURING THE VIETNAM WAR, TOGETHER WITH HELLER’S ANTI-WAR PLAY, WE BOMBED IN NEW HAVEN, INSCRIBED FIRST EDITION, AND A LATER AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED BY HELLER TO THE SAME RECIPIENT
HELLER, Joseph. We Bombed in New Haven. WITH: Autograph letter signed. WITH: Typed letter signed, discussing Catch-22. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1968. Octavo, original maroon cloth, original dust jacket. Two leaves of Heller's letterhead (7-1/4 by 10-1/2 inches), one typed and signed on recto, the other in autograph manuscript and signed on recto. Housed all together in a custom clamshell box. $7800.
First edition of Heller’s anti-war play produced during the Vietnam war, inscribed by him, “To Walter —-, With admiration and sincere good wishes.” Heller sent this inscribed book to the recipient after he had written to Heller praising Catch-22 and implying that it was an inspiration for his decision to move to Canada to dodge the U.S. military draft. With a lengthy typed letter signed by Heller from 1969 to the recipient praising him for his courage and discussing the composition of Catch-22, as well as an autograph letter signed from 1999 to the same recipient.
Joseph Heller's first novel quickly became a classic of anti-war literature. So effective were Heller's humor and insight that the title passed cleanly into the English language as a precise evocation of an unwinnable situation. "When the novel appeared in 1961, World War II veterans appreciated its satire of the military bureaucracy and the chaos of war. By the mid-1960s, it had become a cult classic among counterculture activists for its biting indictment of war" (Books of the Century). The recipient of this inscribed first edition, Walter Krajewski, wrote to Heller in January of 1969 from Toronto, praising Catch-22, asking about the composition of the chapter entitled "The Eternal City," mulling over his own decision to leave the United States (and thus avoid the draft), defending Heller's decision to work for Time magazine against charges of 'selling out,' discussing anti-establishment sentiments prevalent in Canada at the time, and praising Heller for finding a way to make a positive contribution to culture and society. (Krajewski's original letter is included.)
In May of 1969, Heller replied to Krajewski with a lengthy typed letter in which he discusses the draft and his own son (who would have been 13 at the time), comments on "The Eternal City," and remarks on his years at Time magazine and during the war. The letter reads in part: "It was both an honor and a sadness to hear from someone who did leave the country rather than participate in this war; I like to think that I would do the same if faced with a similar choice, although I'm not sure I would have the strength of character to do so, and I will certainly encourage my own son to leave when he is old enough to be threatened with military service, and leave with him if he wishes me to… The chapter THE ETERNAL CITY, if I remember correctly, was one of the easiest of all to write, the reason being, I think, that by that time in the book there was little artifice and more of a need for direct expression. By that time, too, the time spiral had sort of straightened itself out and there was a direct continuity of narrative… I'd not heard before that I was accused of selling out… If anything, I bought out, not sold out: I wrote most of the novel while I worked there and left the whole God damned industrial world altogether shortly after it was published. And, surprising as it may sound, I enjoyed myself immensely while I worked there, just as I enjoyed myself, I am almost ashamed to admit, for most of my service in the army." Heller mentions that he is sending this copy of We Bombed in New Haven under separate cover, "on the chance that you will enjoy that too," and closes by writing, "I wish you will be able to come back soon."
In 1999 Krajewski wrote another letter to Heller, with which he enclosed a copy of Heller's letter from 1969 by way of re-introducing himself (Krajewski's 1999 letter is not included), prompting Heller to pen the following letter: "It was good to receive your letter, with a copy of my own from 1969 and to learn we are all doing well 30 years later. Congratulations to all of us, and best wishes also to all of us. Joseph Heller." With Heller's postmarked envelopes, the one from 1969 typed, the one from 1999 handwritten by Heller. While the autograph letter appears to be dated 1990, it is clear from the postmark date on the envelope and Heller's reference to 30 years having passed that this is a slip of the pen, and the letter was actually written on January 24, 1999. Heller passed away in December of that year.
Book fine, faint toning to edges of dust jacket, a fine copy with interesting correspondence regarding Heller's classic anti-war novel, Catch-22.