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Kinesisk förbannelse

"Må du leva i intressanta tider"

Ordspråket gjordes riktigt känt av Robert F. Kennedy, som använde det i ett tal i Kapstaden den 6 juni 1966:

There is a Chinese curse which says, "May he live in interesting times." Like it or not, we live in interesting times. They are times of danger and uncertainty; but they are also more open to the creative energy of men than any other time in history.

Det blir onekligen lite klämmigare på engelska; notera även att RFK använder tredje person.

En faktoid-jägare vid namn Stephen E. DeLong spårade uttrycket till 1950, då det förekommer i en novell i tidskriften Astounding Science Fiction: "U-Turn" av Duncan H. Munro.

Astounding Science Fiction, April 1950 (25 cents)

The main character of "U-Turn," Mason, has opted for assisted suicide to escape a regimented life in which Venus and Mars are civilized, life on the Moon is spent safely underground, and wild animals in Earth's jungles are as harmless as if they were artificial. We learn at the end of the story that Mason has correctly surmised that the death chamber to which he voluntarily goes is actually a Star Trek-like transporter which will irreversibly send him where he really wants to go -- to the current human frontier, Callisto, one of the moons of Jupiter -- assuming he is among the small fraction of those who survive the dissociation and reassociation process of the device. But before that, while one of the bureaucrats processes his "death wish," Mason complains about the order, regulation, and control under which everyone is forced to live:

For centuries the Chinese used an ancient curse: "May you live in interesting times!" It isn't a curse any more. It's a blessing. We're scientific and civilized. We've got so many rights and liberties and freedoms that one can yearn for chains for the sheer pleasure of busting them and shaking them off. Reckon life would be more livable if there were any chains left to bust.

Stephen E. DeLong
som i sin tur citerade Duncan H. Munro

Uppdaterat: Det verkar som om det finns en del belägg för "förbannelsen" från före 1950. Inte så många, inget före 1900 - eller, om de finns så har jag inte hittat dem än - och intressant nog verkar det finnas en antydan till brittiskt ursprung.

Men det verkar inte finnas något som helst stöd för uppfattningen att citatet skulle komma fårn Kina. Här ett exempel på hur någon med dokumenterad kunskap om kinesiska ting avfärdar myten:

But what is most noteworthy about the expression is that it is not Chinese. There is no such expression, "May you live in interesting times," in Chinese. It is a non-Chinese creation, most probably American, that has been around for at least 30 or 40 years. It appears in book prefaces, newspapers (frequently in the New York Times) and speeches, as an eye- or ear-catcher, although I have not found it in Bartlett's Quotations or other quotation sourcebooks. I speculate that whoever it was who first coined it attempted to give the expression a mystique, and so decided to attribute it to the Chinese.

Torrey Whitman, president of the China Institute, NYC

Referenser:
Robert F. Kennedy, "Day of Affirmation" Speech June 6th, 1966
Excerpts from Robert Kennedy's Address [...], New York Times, 7 juni 1966
Stephen E. DeLong, Sidebar: Get a(n interesting) life!
www.bilinguist.com: chinese proverb translation

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Tack till Patrick Hassel-Zein som hittade Whitmans uttalande
(däremot inga belägg för att ordspråket skulle vara av kinesiskt ursprung)
samt Alatius som tipsade om tidigare belägg än 1950

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