While having a pre-Mrs-Towers’-return (she should be back by the time this post gets to the front of the queue. She better be!) house clean I stumbled across Muriel Spark’s novella “The Houthouse by the East River. I don’t remember reading it, but I think I have because there’s an asterisk (of mine?) in the margin of page 63;
‘What does it matter? Spies don’t matter any more,’ Pierre says. ‘There isn’t any war and peace any more, no good and evil, no communism, no capitalism, no fascism. There’s only one area of conflict left and that’s between absurdity and intelligence.’
On the subject of the gods contending in vain, see here.
On the subject of superannuated spies, see also “Plenty” by David Hare.
Addendum: Yep, I read this years ago. Here’s another quote I liked-
This security officer, Colonel Tylden, has been appointed sagely. He is a military man with a limited imagination which, even in its limited capacity, he seldom uses. Consequently he is less likeable, less highly regarded but more just and more efficient than other, more brilliant and subtle, investigators whose courteous looks and hysterical hearts combine to put up a brilliant performance in the course of interrogation, but who probe so often in directions deviating from facts to which they never return. (page 24)