Fate: “a belly-laugh on Olympus”

The gods, like most other practical jokers, have a habit of repeating themselves too often

The gods, like most other practical jokers, have a habit of repeating themselves too often. Man has, so to speak, learned to expect the pail of water on his head. He may try to sidestep, but when, as always, he gets wet, he is more concerned about his new hat than the ironies of fate. He has lost the faculty of wonder.

The tortured shriek of high tragedy has degenerated into a petulant grunt. But there is still one minor booby-trap in the repertoire which, I suspect, never fails to provoke a belly-laugh on Olympus. I, at any rate, succumb to it with regularity. The kernel of the jest is an illusion; the illusion that the simple emotional sterility, the partial mental paralysis that comes with the light of the morning, is really sanity.

– Eric Ambler, ‘Cause For Alarm’, London, 1938. Ambler, an English writer, wrote the source novels for the films noir Journey Into Fear (1943) and The Mask of  Dimitrios (1944).

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