I have no equal when it comes to cutting short unwanted conversations

From Cees Nooteboom’s The Following Story – the narrator responding to the observation that he sits so still for so long while reading that from a distance he appears dead.

“What you call dead, madam, is in fact concentration,” I said, because I have no equal when it comes to cutting short unwanted conversations.  But she insisted on knowing what I spent all my time reading.  Such moments are quite enjoyable, for this conversation took place in one neighborhood cafe De Klepel, and I have a powerful, some would even say aggressive, voice.  “Last night I was reading Theophrastus’ Characters, madame, and after that I read some page of Nonnos’s Dionysiaca.” That sort of remark is guaranteed to bring an instant hush in such surroundings, and from then on I am left in peace.

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