Mini-reseñas de libros: ‘Catch as Catch Can’

Catch as Catch Can: The Collected Stories and Other WritingsComo suele ocurrir con este tipo de libros (recopilatorios de textos de distinto tipo y escritos en momentos muy diferentes), el volumen es un tanto irregular. Aun así, algunos de los relatos de la primera parte (los que habían sido ya publicados con anterioridad) son magníficos y también es un placer saber más del capitán Yossarian (el protagonista de Trampa 22) y de algunos de sus compañeros.

También es curioso el texto en el que Joseph Heller habla de las vicisitudes de la adaptación al cine de Trampa 22 y el relato que cierra el volumen, “Coney Island: The Fun is Over”.

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“People don’t have to read it, just buy it”

En uno de los textos incluidos en el volumen Catch as Catch Can, Joseph Heller habla del largo, complejo y tedioso proceso (por no llamarlo odisea) de la adaptación al cine de su obra maestra, Trampa 22. Y no por su culpa, porque desde el primer momento dejó claro que, una vez vendidos los derechos, aquello ya no era su problema. Cambios de estudio, de director, de guionista, problemas de producción… Pese a todo, la película llegó a los cines en 1970, firmada por Mike Nichols y con Alan Arkin en el papel del capitán Yossarian. Aunque no fue un bombazo de taquilla, sí que hizo que se disparasen las ventas de la novela. Esto es lo que dice Heller sobre el tema:

“During the summer after it opened I got  a call from Dell Publishing saying that in the preceding six weeks Catch-22 had been the fastest-selling book they’d ever produced. Over a million copies were sold in those six weeks and it made the Times paperback best-seller list. That made me happy. And it also amused me, in a kind of sadistic way, because I knew that many of those million copies had been bought by people who wouldn’t be able to get past page six or eight. But that didn’t bother me, because I get the royalties anyway —people don’t have to read it, just buy it— and it’s nice to get money from the people who make millionaires out of Harold Robbins and Jacqueline Susann”.

No le importa si quien la compra se la lee o no (de hecho, le hace gracia pensar que muchos de los que la empiecen no pasarán de la página seis u ocho), lo que le importa es que la compren, porque así es como gana dinero. Es curioso leer a un autor reconocer lo que otros muchos también pensarán pero no se atreverán a admitir.

“Castle of Snow” – Joseph Heller (1948)

“Then one day, without a word beforehand, my Uncle returned with a stranger, a man who had come to buy his books.

I remember the figure of my Uncle kneeling by the closet before the open trunk. He removed the books singly, each one with both hands, glanced at the title soberly, and passed it to the strange man, who appraised it in a moment and added it to the mounting pile behind him. My Aunt was stunned by this latest development, and she stood motionless, watching the proceeding with profound regret.

From my Uncle’s actions it seemed that he had been determined to sell them all and had then wavered. Midway through the pile, he hesitated over one book and placed it on the floor behind him. Near the end he withheld another. When all the others had been sacrificed, he picked up the two books and considered each thoughtfully. Then, with reluctance, he handed one to the man and rose. It is interesting to note that in this, possibly the moment of his greatest tragedy, he chose the humor of Chaucer in preference to the comforting promise of the Bible.”

“Castle of Snow” – Joseph Heller, 1948 (Publicado en Catch as Catch Can, 2003)