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One Hand Clapping (1961) was Burgess’s first published novel as Joseph Kell, and is a comic satire on consumer culture. Not to spoil the story too much, at one point the protagonist Janet Shirley and her lover Redvers Glass find themselves in Paris with a dead body to dispose of.
‘[Redvers Glass] said: ‘That shop in Rue What’s-its-name. Where they have the antiques and things.’‘Yes?’ ‘They have a Chinese camphorwood chest. A nice big one. Camphor will preserve anything. A lovely smell, too. We’ll go and buy that.’
‘All right,’ I said. So we went to this shop and Red spoke in French to the old man who ran the place. This chest was a nicely carved big box, all covered with dragons, very cleverly done. It was very big, too, as big as my trunk. Poor Howard. Anyway, Red managed to get it for one thousand new francs, which he said wasn’t too dear, considering. This chest was brought to our hotel on a lorry and it was much admired by the hotel staff, even those who had to bring it up to our room. Then, when we’d locked the door, we bundled poor Howard’s dead body out of my trunk on to the floor. It was looking less and less like Howard now, but it made me feel a bit distressed and sick as we put it into the camphorwood chest. It went in very nicely, and Red was right about the lovely smell of camphor that came off this box. So now the body was all right and we didn’t have to hurry too much about finding somewhere more or less permanent to live.’
These are two pictures of the chest, which is part of the furniture collection at the Burgess Foundation. It does not contain a body but still does have a ‘lovely smell’.