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‘I took a cigarette for myself from the Florentine leatherbound box on the counter. There was also a huge wooden bowl from Central Africa full of matchbooks, trophies of the world’s airlines and hotels. I had toyed once with the notion of a travel book arranged on the aleatory taking out of matchbooks from this bowl, rather like filthy Norman Douglas’s autobiography based on the random selection of visiting cards. It had come to nothing. There is sense, however, in keeping a bowl full of such trophies: there are addresses and telephone numbers there, as well as a palpable record of travel helpful to an old man’s memory. I lighted my cigarette with a match from La Grande Scène, a restaurant at the top of the Kennedy Center in Washington, 833-8870. I could not for the life of me remember having been there. I puffed and shortened my life.’
From Earthly Powers, 1980
Burgess was a heavy smoker, and collected matchbooks just as he describes Kenneth Toomey doing in the novel. We have several thousand of these, but our researcher Dr Katherine Adamson has somehow managed to find ‘La Grande Scène’. Three matches are missing.