Alfred Kazin; Influential Critic and Analyst of American Literature

<i> From Times Staff and Wire Reports</i>

Alfred Kazin, one of America’s grand old men of letters, died Friday in Manhattan on his 83rd birthday.

Kazin died at his home after a long bout with prostate cancer, according to his wife, Judith Dunford.

A critic, historian and memoirist, Kazin vaulted into prominence in 1942 at the age of 27 with “On Native Grounds,” a groundbreaking interpretation of American literature from 1890 to 1940.


Later books confirmed and extended his reputation. “A Walker in the City,” a lyrical evocation of his Brooklyn boyhood, is considered a classic of autobiography. “Starting Out in the Thirties,” “New York Jew” and “Writing Was Everything” present vivid portraits of the literary intelligentsia.

Although slowed in his last years by various ailments, Kazin kept writing until the end. His book reviews appeared regularly in the New York Review of Books, the New Republic and the New York Times Book Review.

“I have nothing else to do,” he said last fall. “Life would be too boring without it.”

His final book, “God and the American Writer,” had just been published, and he was at work on an assessment of Jewry tentatively titled “Jews: The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.”

being a critic.”

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a sister, the critic Pearl Bell; a son, Michael, a historian at American University; and a daughter, Cathrael, an attorney in Israel.