a short site about The Divine Comedy

French version

The Certainty Of Chance

Lyrics: Neil Hannon

Music: Neil Hannon / Joby Talbot

Published by: BMG Music Publishing Ltd. / Chester Music Ltd.

Originally interpreted by: The Divine Comedy


To see the lyrics, click on the name of the version you are interested in (on the left).




The song was played for the Fin De Siècle tour, then again in 2004. It is true that it's not the type of song that would fit the Regeneration line-up.

The title of the song, and even the whole song, plays on the contradiction between certainty and chance. Neil Hannon got the idea from a documentary on Salvador Dali, for whom the Surrealist Manifesto is based on this concept. It means that the only thing you can be sure of is that anything can happen, at anytime.

The first example Neil Hannon gives is based on the butterfly effect, a theory which states that a small change in the atmosphere, caused by the flapping of a butterfly's wings, can gradually lead to a storm, at the other end of the world. This is part of the chaos theory. As far as chance is concerned it boils down to saying that anything can little by little change the face of the world.

The meaning of the second verse is of the same sort. A child can destroy computers by simply pressing a key. And not any key, the return key, meaning that we go back to how it was before, without computers. Yet, I don't think that Neil is saying that computers are a bad thing.

As was the case with 'Generation Sex', the song originally ended with a sample from the film La Dolce Vita, by Fellini. But the Fellini foundation asked for it to be removed after The Divine Comedy had already recorded it. So instead of hearing the French actor Alain Cuny speak in Italian, in the album version, we can hear Neil Hannon saying the subtitle transcript. The first version, with the sample, features the Fin De Siècle promo. It is worth noting that the two texts are slightly different. Here is the translation of the Italian sample:

"I think of what's in store for my children tomorrow. The world will be wonderful. But from whose viewpoint, if a telephone call can announce the end of the world? We need to live far from passions and other feelings, in a state of suspended animation, like a work of art, in a state of enchantment. We would like to love one another, to live outside time, detached, detached."

Now the sample is played more and more often during concerts.

The demo of the song, featuring Rarities, has different lyrics, although the theme of the song is the same. It still starts with a reference to the butterfly effect. The song alludes to many cities in the world. The second verse was different though. The demo sounds less pessimistic and more focused on the quest for love and happiness.

A video for the single was directed by Zowie Broach and produced by Sam Gainsbury for Freedom Music Videos Ltd. It recreates a scene from the 1962 movie The Manchurian Candidate starring Frank Sinatra. The scene shows here the band giving a conference in front of many journalists, some of the actors actually being presenters, such as James O’Brien.