The Entropy Tango (novel)

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A Cornelius novel consisting of five novellas and fourteen poems/song lyrics.

Publishing History (UK)

  • Hardcover, New English Library, 153pp., ISBN: 0-450-04886-1, 1981, Cover by Romaine Slocombe
  • Paperback, New English Library, 160pp., ISBN: 0-450-05663-5, 1987

tet_nel81.jpg tet_nel87.jpg

Omnibus Publication (UK)

Omnibus Publication (US)


The Novellas

  • For One Day Only: Two Mighty Empires Clash
  • The Kassandra Peninsula, Game, Jan 1978
  • Revolutions
  • The Minstrel Girl (first published in A Book of Contemporary Nightmares, ed. Giles Gordon, Michael Joseph, 1977)
  • Harlequin’s Lament

The Lyrics

  • Entropy Tango
  • At the Time Centre
  • The Birthplace of Harlequin
  • Pierrot on the Moon
  • Pierrot’s Song of Positive Thinking
  • Through the Megaflow (Waltz)
  • Every Gun Plays Its Own Tune
  • Pierrot in the Roof Garden
  • Pierrot and Columbine’s Song of Reconciliation
  • Columbine Confused
  • Columbine’s Carol
  • Harlequin Transformed
  • Harlequin’s Techniques of Courtship
  • The Entropy Tango (Reprise - The Ensemble)


This summary lists the chapters and sub-sections of the novel, gives a precis of each and comments where appropriate. The novel is told in a series of short sections which may not necessarily relate to the previous section, or indeed any other story.

1. Introduction
Entropy Tango – lyrics
At the Time Centre – lyrics
The Birthplace of Harlequin – lyrics
1. For One Day Only: Two Mighty Empires Clash
The reverse of 'Shots from Famous Films, No.19', issued by Gallagher Ltd., c1937
Major Nye and Una Persson are chatting. They and two others are in the lounge of AS Lady Charlotte Lever of E&A Lines over Transcarpathia in 1948.
The reverse of 'National Flags and Arms, No.16', issued by John Player & Sons, c1937
Una has arrived at the Cornelius residence in Notting Hill – news was on the radio – Makhno's insurgent army has won control of rural Ontario – Mrs Cornelius is there. Catherine arrives – they embrace.
The reverse of 'Soldiers of the King, No.21', issued by Godfrey Phillips Ltd., c1937
Una has arrived in Toronto – the city has capitulated to Makhno – she goes to the offices of 'Canadian Pacific Airship Co.' where Major Nye is processing applications for those wanting to leave.
The reverse of 'Highland Clans No.3', issued by John Player & Sons, c1920
Una goes to see Makhno at his house in Toronto. Makhno has a new wife – his twenty-first. The phone rings – a British fleet is on its way from Winnipeg.
The reverse of 'The Coronation Series, No.31', issued by WD & HO Wills, c1936
Una and Catherine are at Derry and Toms – Catherine has told Una of her engagement to Mr Koutroboussis, the ship-owner.
The reverse of 'British Butterflies, No.15', issued by WD & HO Wills, c1925
It is 27 June 1948. Una has gone to Rye to the Nye residence, their son is away at school, Mrs Nye has been confined to her rooms for the past 3 to 4 years. Major Nye is feeding Rhodes. Makhno has fled to South America. Major Nye was 18 in 1910. Una has resigned from the service.
2. Development (a)
Pierrot on the Moon – lyrics
Harlequin's Techniques of Courtship – lyrics
Columbine Confused – lyrics
2. The Kassandra Peninsula
Quotation from Spenser, The Fairie Queen, 1 x.28
Una and Jerry Cornelius are in a New Hampshire barn. It is winter, their Kamov Ka-15 appears to have failed. A pirate Concorde flies overhead.
Quote from Bob Dylan
Prinz Lobkowitz and Una Persson are out of their jobs after the Prinz failed to form a cabinet at the invitation of the US provisional government – they are in a half built auditorium.
Lyrics by Max Wall
Petrov and Mrs Persson are in the Congo. She is getting ready to leave, packing her ammunitation and picking up her AK47. There is a black cockney corporal with them.
Lyric by Hawkwind
Makhno, Una and Shakey Mo Collier are in a motor launch on the river in Africa carrying a cargo, they are completing one of Jerry's jobs.
Lyrics by The Deep Fix
Miss Brunner and Una are in 'Lionel Himmler's Blue Spot Club, having lunch. Miss Brunner is off to Sweden where she now lives. They talk about Mo's last consignment and Jerry.
Lyric by Bruce Springsteen
Una drives to Blenheim Crescent and stops outside a seedy terrace house. It is 7am. London is in a dilapidated state – abandoned strip joints and casinos, ruined apartment buildings blocking Kensington Park Road. Mrs Cornelius lets her in, Catherine is not awake.
Mrs C. refers to the 'Orn o' Fate.
Lyrics by Nick Lowe
Una and Prinz Lobkowitz meet in the ruined auditorium again - they talk about Jerry. Jerry tried for the Presidency.
Una picks up Jerry - they decide to travel to Concord.
3. Development (b)
Pierrot's Song of Positive Thinking - lyrics
The Nature of the Catastrophe - lyrics
Through the Megaflow (waltz) - lyrics
3. Revolutions
Advert: Picture Post, 1 March 1952
Colonel Pyat and Nestor Makhno are tied to each wheel of a huge 120mm field gun on a truck on an autobahn. Una is also tied up. They have been caught by militia men trying to leave Bohemia. Prinz Lobkowitz was due back from exile again on 'The Kansas City Whirlwind'. Una escapes.
Letter: Picture Post, 1 March 1952
Una's newspaper says 1952, the radio says 1976. She is on the beach at Bognor, to meet Jerry. Jerry thinks his mother is dead, Una says not.
Article: Picture Post, 1 March 1952
Una is driving a hearse with Jerry in the back. She drives past the Kensington Palace Hotel and The Elgin, past the new housing development on the site of the Convent of the Poor Clares, past Blenheim Crescent where Mrs Cornelius lived. Shakey Mo and three from Motorhead including Lemmy come out of a house.
Arthur C Clarke: Picture Post, 1 March 1952
Una and Catherine are having a picnic by a Cumbrian river. Jerry is lying low.
Advert: Picture Post, 1 March 1952
Major Nye and Elizabeth are outside his shed. Una and Catherine are visiting. Makhno is in prison in Australia. Mrs Nye is in her invalid chair. Their local vicar, Bishop Beesley is visiting.
Clipping from Daily Telegraph, 20 July 1978
Makhno, his girlfriend, Maxime and Una are in Luxembourg Gardens, Paris. It is autumn. Makhno is nearly 70 and in exile. Paris is under Prussian blockade. Bishop Beesley and Miss Brunner approach and draw guns. Time fractures, Makhno, Maxime and Una end up in the Ukraine on the crest of a hill, they mount ponies - time fractures - they are in a burning town - time fractures - they are in snow, Jerry arrives and offers them a lift - time fractures - Una is in a boat with Jerry and Catherine - time fractures - she stumbles up a yellow beach on some Indian Ocean island.
Clipping from Daily Telegraph, 20 July 1978
Professor Hira and Una are boarding up the Professor's windows on Rowe Island, which is now an R&R base for members of the Guild of Temporal Adventurers. The hotel is run by Olmeijer, the fat Dutchman - however is currently away. Dacoits are attacking the island on Teddy Bear. A Dornier DoX lands in the harbour, Hira and Una swim out to the plane and join Mo, Frank and Jerry on board - they head for Australia.
Clipping from Daily Telegraph, 20 July 1978
Una and Catherine head for Derry and Toms in a limo - only it is now Marks and Spencers.
Clipping from Daily Telegraph, 20 July 1978
Jerry is in the half ruined Peoples Theatre beneath the Westway dressed as Pierrot. Una is there. They leave and go to the Mountain Grill on Portobello Road. Sat at tables were Miss Brunner, Bishop Beesley, Doctor Karen von Krupp, Frank Cornelius, Shakey Mo, Nestor Makhno, Maxime, Mrs Cornelius, Major Nye, Elizabeth Nye, Pip Nye, Captain Nye, William Randolph Hearst, Orson Welles, Alfred Bester, Zenith the Albino. Other tables are occupied by:
Nik Turner, Dave Brock, DikMik, Del Dettmar
Simon King, Bob Calvert, Lemmy, Martin Griffin
Pete Pavli, Adrian Shaw, Michael Moorcock, Simon House
Steve Gilmore, Douglas Smith, Wayne Bardell, Graham Charnock
Phil Taylor, Eddy Clarke, Catherine Cornelius, Harvey Bainbridge
Clipping from Daily Telegraph, 20 July 1978
Una, Jerry and Catherine leave Harrogate on the A65 heading north after an unsuccessful theatre show. They make their way towards Cumbria. Somewhere beyond Ilkley a Banning began to sound. They reach Grasmere and Dove Cottage. A submersible fires on them. They head Glasgow
Mike's geography goes awry here. The A65 does not go to Harrogate – it is the A61 in our reality. Also Ilkley is to the south of Harrogate so Jerry & Co could be taking a round about route. The A65 goes from Ilkley to Cumbria.
4. Recapitulation
Every Gun Plays Its Own Tune – lyrics
Pierrot in the Roof Garden – lyrics
Columbine's Carol – lyrics
4. The Minstrel Girl
Advertising copy for Ferranti – arms manufacturer
Jerry and Una are in a photographic studio – it is twelfth night and Jerry was on his way to the Hunt Ball when he rescued her.
Advertising copy for Interavia – arms manufacturer
Maxime and Una are in a vast Louis XIV bed.
Advertising copy for Interavia – arms manufacturer
Prinz Lobkowitz and Una are in a clinch, they are in a doctor's surgery. There is a distant explosion. The doctor's skeleton lies slumped in his chair.
Advertising copy for Interavia – arms manufacturer
Una and Catherine enter the IBM building and reach the computer room – the computer is dead.
Advertising copy for Interavia – arms manufacturer
Una has left Catherine in Kiev. Una is on the SS Kao An heading for Darwin and Sandakan. The ship is stopped by the South Koreans – Una is sent west and arrives in London. Prinz Lobkowitz, new Minister for Controls invites her to dinner, but she doesn't accept. She enters the Convent of the Poor Clares in Ladbroke Grove.
Advertising copy for Interavia – arms manufacturer
Una is trying to analyse her own brain.
Advertising copy for Interavia – arms manufacturer
Maxime, Catherine, Jerry and Lobkowitz stand around Una's hospital bed.
5. Coda
Harlequin Transformed – lyrics
Pierrot and Columbine's Song of Reconciliation – lyrics
The Entropy Tango (Reprise – The Ensemble) – lyrics
5. Harlequin's Lament
The reverse of ' Flags of the Empire, No.1', issued by WD & HO Wills, c1924
Una is playing Diana Hunt in the musical comedy ' Wonderful Woman' at the Calcutta Empire. Ranne, her dresser, Miss Brunner and Bishop Beesley are in her dressing room. Miss Brunner and the Bishop are from the local Moral Rearmament committee and want her to change some lines in the play.
Quotation from Spenser, The Fairie Queene, 7 vi. 1
Una is on a train leaving Odessa – she meets Bronstein (Trotsky). They talk about Makhno and the past.
Article: Picture Post, 1 March 1952
Una is on the bridge of the submarine liner, 'Seahorse, as part of a pirate raid on San Francisco, the Golden Gate bridge is being destroyed. Makhno joins her on the bridge – he is very old with white hair. Captain Korzeniowski is also there. Shakey Mo and Jerry appear alongside in a dinghy. Jerry is drunk. Fisherman's Wharf explodes. Una is blinded.
Clipping from Daily Telegraph, 20 July 1978
Una is in hospital with a broken neck. Major Nye and Prinz Lobkowitz are there. Makhno has been hanged. Una will be in hospital for six months.
Extract from 'The Spirit of Pierrot' by Philip Gibbs, The Graphic, 27 November 1911
The Steam Yacht The Teddy Bear is in the Arctic, it is Christmas Day. Una, Bishop Beesley, Miss Brunner, Maxime, Mitzi Beesley, Mrs Cornelius, Major Nye, Catherine, Jerry and others are on board.

Mike Says

  • "We stopped doing the demos after the first publisher collapsed. Maybe someone familiar with the Entropy Tango songs knows which one's missing. Too late now, of course. That manuscript (and pictures) went from Pierrot Press to Virgin to it's present black and white edition, but originally all the pictures were in colour and the plan was to publish it as an LP size book. With at least some of the songs. But Pierrot went belly up, Virgin lost too much money on other barmy projects and NEL wanted to do it at least with all the illustrations. But, of course, the thing travelled around quite a bit before it found a home."[1]
  • "[The] lyrics actually come from an album Pete Pavli and I were putting together. They exist in various forms, including demos and rehearsals. However, though we went into a studio with some of them and produced fairly advanced demos, our manager at the time was so unenthusiastic that we gradually lost momentum. They are fairly unconventional, some of them, and closer, some say, to Beefheart than Beatles."[2]



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