2017 Nobel Prize in Literature: Kazoo Ishiguro by The New York Times

Writing songs helped shape the idiosyncratic, elliptical prose style that made him one of the most acclaimed and influential British writers of his generation. “That was all very good preparation for the kind of fiction I went on to write,” Mr. Ishiguro said in a 2015 interview with The New York Times. “You have to leave a lot of meaning underneath the surface.”

Mr. Ishiguro, 62, is best known for his novels “The Remains of the Day,” about a butler serving an English lord in the years leading up to World War II, and “Never Let Me Go,” a melancholy dystopian love story set in a British boarding school. He has obsessively returned to the same themes in his work, including the fallibility of memory, mortality and the porous nature of time. His body of work stands out for his inventive subversion of literary genres, his acute sense of place and his masterly parsing of the British class system.

“If you mix Jane Austen and Franz Kafka then you have Kazuo Ishiguro in a nutshell, but you have to add a little bit of Marcel Proust into the mix,” said Sara Danius, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy.

“He doesn’t look to the side,” she said. “He has developed an aesthetic universe all his own.”

At a news conference at his London publisher’s office on Thursday, Mr. Ishiguro was characteristically self-effacing, saying that the award was a genuine shock. “If I had even a suspicion, I would have washed my hair this morning,” he said.

He added that when he thinks of “all the great writers living at this time who haven’t won this prize, I feel slightly like an impostor.”

In a career that spans some 35 years, Mr. Ishiguro has gained wide recognition for his stark, emotionally restrained prose. His novels are often written in the first person, with unreliable narrators who are in denial about truths that are gradually revealed to the reader. The resonance in his plots often comes from the rich subtext — the things left unsaid, and gaps between the narrator’s perception and reality.

After studying English and philosophy at the University of Kent, in Canterbury, he spent a year writing fiction, eventually gaining a Master of Arts in creative writing.

His deep understanding of the social conventions and affectations of his adopted homeland shaped his third novel, “The Remains of the Day,” which won the Booker Prize. Mr. Ishiguro, who writes his first drafts by hand, later said he had written the book in four weeks in a feverish rush.

When he published “The Remains of the Day,” Mr. Ishiguro worried that he was repeating himself by writing another first-person novel with an unreliable narrator, but critics saw the book as an extreme departure.

His 2005 novel, “Never Let Me Go,” was regarded as yet another stylistic leap into futuristic science fiction, although it was set in the 1990s.

In selecting Mr. Ishiguro, the Swedish Academy, which has been criticized in the past for using the prize to make a political statement, seemed to focus on pure literary merit.

The Nobel Prize in Literature is given in recognition of a writer’s entire body of work rather than a single title.

Recently, the academy has often overlooked novelists and poets in favor of writers working in unconventional forms. Last year, the prize went to the singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition,” a choice that infuriated some traditionalists. In 2015, the Nobel went to the Belarusian journalist and prose writer Svetlana Alexievich, who is known for her expansive oral histories, and in 2013, the Canadian short story writer Alice Munro won.

In an telephone interview on Thursday, Mr. Ishiguro, sounding flustered and stunned, said he was sitting at his kitchen table writing an email in his London home, where he lives with his wife Lorna, when the phone rang. It was his agent, who told him that the Nobel committee had announced his name. Then the BBC called, and a gaggle of journalists and photographers gathered in front of his door. “It was very embarrassing,” he said. “My neighbors probably thought I was a serial killer or something.”

“I’ve got a novel to finish, and it’s not an easy novel,” he said. “It’s going to be just as difficult to get on with it when the dust settles as it was before.”

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Farewell to Kenneth Arrow, a Gentle Genius of Economics by Lawrence Summers

No one else I have ever known so embodied the scholarly life well lived.

I remember like yesterday the moment when Kenneth won the Nobel Prize in 1972. Paul Samuelson—another Nobel economist and, as it happens, also my uncle—hosted a party in his honor, to which I, then a sophomore at MIT, was invited.

As the night wore on, Paul and Kenneth were standing in a corner discussing various theorems in mathematical economics. People started leaving. Paul’s wife was looking impatient. Kenneth’s wife, my aunt Selma, put her coat on, buttoned it and started pacing at the door. Kenneth raised something known as the maximum principle and the writings of the Russian mathematician Pontryagin. Paul began a story about the great British mathematical economist and philosopher Frank Ramsey. My ride depended on this conversation ending, so I watched alertly without understanding a word.

But I did understand this: There were two people in the room who had won Nobel Prizes. They were the two people who, after everyone else was exhausted and heading home, talked on and on into the evening about the subject they loved. I learned that night about my uncles—about their passion for ideas and about the importance and excitement of what scholars do.

Kenneth’s writings resolved age-old questions and opened up vast new areas for others to explore. He likely was the most important economic theorist of the second half of the 20th century.

Drawing upon mathematical logic, it shows that there is no possible voting scheme that can consistently and sensibly reflect the preferences of a set of individuals with diverse views. . . . Mathematical and abstruse it was. But it also explained why committees have so much trouble coming to consistent conclusions and why, with an increasingly polarized electorate, democracy can become increasingly dysfunctional.

Economists have been drawn to Adam Smith’s idea of the “invisible hand” for hundreds of years. But until Kenneth drew on the techniques of topology, no one had ever been able to establish precise conditions under which there would be prices that would clear all markets, or under which one could assume that the market outcome was optimal. Writing in the early 1950s, he clarified the very specific conditions under which market outcomes were for the best and, of equal importance, the far more general conditions under which public interventions in markets had the potential to make things better.

It is hard to imagine what economics would be like today without his contributions.

In a family of professors, the conversation ranged widely. Save for the NFL, there was no topic—from politics to music, from classics to physics—on which Kenneth was not infinitely curious and apparently omniscient.

Kenneth knew more about everything than most know about anything, but he never flaunted his intelligence. It was another lesson for me when, many years ago, a paper was published correcting a famous analysis published by one of Kenneth’s teachers. At the time, it created a stir. I asked him what he thought. He said quietly that he had known of the error for decades, but such was his respect for his teacher that he did not publish his insight.

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