Friday Finds: ‘Black Rain’, ‘Black Snow’

In the most recent issue of Asymptote — where you can also find two poems by Ḥusayn Mardān, trans. Suneela Mubayi and an interview with Marilyn Booth — Margaret Litvin has translated the second scene from Iraqi playwright Karim Rashid’s I Came to See You, titled “Black Rain” in the English and in the Arabic, or, in Swedish, “Black Snow”:

From the Swedish production.

Litvin also reviewed the full work for ArabStages, where she said that, “On its face, Karim Rashed’s “I Came to See You” ( جئت لأراك), staged this season in Malmö and Stockholm, Sweden, is about the immigrant’s identity crisis, his inability to feel at home in the new land and his deluded nostalgia for the old. On the meta level, however, everything about the play’s creation, staging, and reception testifies to just the opposite.”

Over email, Litvin said that one thing to note, about the translation on Asymptote was the title of Scene 2. “In Arabic and English it’s ‘Black Rain,’ but in Swedish, ‘Black Snow.’ Karim explains: ‘In Iraq during the US invasion black rain actually fell because the raindrops mixed with smoke from the bombing and the smoke from the fires Saddam had lit to cover the Baghdad sky with smoke to obscure the view for the US air attack. This is common knowledge among Iraqis, but there was no simple way to clarify it in the play. So I chose “black snow” to convey the same sense of shock for the Swedish audience.'”

The play has yet to be produced in English.

From Scene Two, where Salim has just arrived at the Baghdad Airport.

SALIM:  What happened to your face?

MOKHLIS:  Ugh. You tell me: how come you came back here?

SALIM:  I came to see you.

MOKHLIS:  Ooooooooooh. Thanks so fucking much. I’m happy to hear it. Are you back for good?

SALIM:  Oof. It’s hot here. It’s like I’ve forgotten how . . .

MOKHLIS:  Are you back for good? It’s a simple question.

SALIM:  I’m here to see you.

MOKHLIS:  So this piece-of-shit country is about to start attracting planeloads of tourists?

SALIM:  I don’t see it that way.

MOKHLIS:  So what the hell do you see?

Read the full translated scene at Asymptote.