Al-dunya aǧmal min al-ǧanna by Ḫālid al-Birrī (2006): A memoir and a journey through national imaginary
Al-dunyā aǧmal min al-ǧanna (“This world is more beautiful than paradise”) by the Egyptian writer Ḫālid al-Birrī is a memoir—firstly serialized in 2001, and then republished as a volume in 2006—recounting the author’s militancy in the fundamentalist group al-ǧamā‘a al-islāmiyya, for around five years.
While scholars have referred to this book, generally, as a historical source and as a documentary about the activities and strategies adopted by al-ǧamā‘a al-islāmiyya, I will attempt here an analysis of the text as a memoir, in dialogue with both the Egyptian of Twentieth Century life-writing tradition, and the memoir global tradition. Under this perspective, I will discuss some tropes and discourses developed by the author. In particular, I will analyze how the author develops through this legitimizing genre themes as the quest for identity, the building of a new “self,” the relationship between the self and the Nation, represented through a tight network of cultural and literary references.