I am not a lucky traveler. Business has taken me often to the far parts of the world and on these journeys I have made it unhappy practice to fall ill in the place I am visiting. This time it is nothing more sensational than an infected tooth, and in so prosaic a place as Bad Godesberg. Tomorrow I will need to find a dentist and have the tooth looked at and treated —or more likely taken out. Which is a nuisance, because it will surely set back my entire schedule of appointments by a full day.

But if sickness is never convenient, other times the infirmities have at least been more interesting—not only clinically, in themselves, but for what they have allowed me to learn en passant about the nature of those societies in which I have been stricken.

Once among some Berber people at an oasis south of the Atlas Mountains in the Sahara a kidney ailment felled me suddenly, terrifyingly. I was in indescribable pain, but by the greatest luck there was a doctor in the place, a Dutchman.The people brought him to me and he injected me with two syringes of morphine—the maximum sublethal dose.