Inuhiko Yomota writes from Antananarivo that the Madagascar capital is so dusty and so polluted with car exhaust that he's almost gotten sick.

"Madagascar is said to be the poorest country in Africa and its capital has just one bookstore, small and Catholic. Japan's former colonies, both Taiwan and Korea, have made remarkable economic and technological advances, but none of the former French colonies has accomplished anything of the sort."

Yomota, the international traveler-scholar par excellence, has taught at a dozen universities outside Japan, from Columbia University in New York to Federal Fluminense University in Rio de Janeiro. In South Korea, he has taught at Konkuk and Chung-Ang universities, both in Seoul, and in Taiwan, at the National Tsing Hua University, in Hsinchu.