Our own absurdities, not his.

From Cees Nooteboom’s A Dark Premonition: Journeys to Hieronymus Bosch

“…suddenly he is much closer to me, this most enigmatic of all painters, suddenly I see his hand, I see how he changed the position of a head with his nervous lines, how on the hill before divine Jerusalem he has moved a windmill somewhere else; I see him at work, which suddenly makes it seem as if he is standing beside us, as if we could ask the man who never said anything if it is true what the exegetes say, that in his work a key always means knowledge, and a mussel shell infidelity, that an egg is the most important symbol of the mysterious powers of alchemy, or that a rat always stands for sex or for lies against the church, of if he would agree with what Dirk Bax, a later compatriot from the twentieth century, claimed, that he was a “moralist who felt contempt for the lower classes, with no sympathy for the poor, and who employed his bitterest symbolism to mock beggars, pilgrims, prostitutes, gypsies, vagrants, minstrels, and actors” – but mainly I would like to know what he thought about what Fra de Siguenza wrote about him, who had to defend him posthumously against claims of heresy and said: “If there are absurd things to be seen here, then they are our own absurdities, not his.”

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.