Mitla Pass

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Gideon Zadok, a self-described “poor man’s Hemingway,” is determined to redeem his literary reputation. Zadok’s first work, based on his experiences as a marine during the Pacific campaigns of World War II, was an instant success, but his second was less satisfactory. For his new novel, he proposes to describe the struggle to create the state of Israel. He therefore welcomes the opportunity to accompany a forward unit of the Israeli Defense Force when the new nation embarks on a new war with its neighbors--the famous Sinai Campaign of 1956.

MITLA PASS is far more than simply a re-creation of a portion of the Second Arab-Israeli War. As Zadok battles his personal demons on the eve of combat deep in the Sinai, he recalls the story of those who went before--the men and women who survived the persecution of Czarist Russia and the social and economic discrimination of the United States before World War II in order that he might become an American author who is also a Jew.

In many respects MITLA PASS is a partial bridge between Uris’ novels EXODUS and MILA 18 and the modern history of Israel. At the same time, Uris expands the scope of his novel by examining the lives of the American Jewish community from World War I to the end of World War II. Although MITLA PASS is an informative and at times engrossing work, the shifting chronological focus repeatedly breaks the momentum of the narrative. In fact, the effort to meld what are essentially two separate novels leaves the reader wishing that Uris had taken more time to develop both stories. Despite its flaws, MITLA PASS is ample proof that even an unsatisfactory novel by Uris is better than none at all.