Dealing with people

“People like it when you tell them things, in suitable portions, in a modest, intimate tone, and they think they know you, but they do not, they know about you, for what they are let in on are facts, not feelings, not what your opinion is about anything at all, not how what has happened to you and how all the decisions you have made have turned you into who you are.  What they do is they fill in with their own feelings  and opinions and assumptions, and they compose a new life which has precious little to do with yours, and that lets you off the hook.  No one can touch you unless you yourself want them to.  You only have to be polite and smile and keep paranoid thoughts bay, because they will talk about you no matter how much you squirm, it is inevitable, and you would do the same thing yourself.”

From “Out Stealing Horses”, by Per Petterson, published in 2003, in the US by Graywolf Press.  The book was originally in Norwegian. The book is about the thought and random life events of a man living in the Norwegian forest.

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