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Cultural Historian Kazin Dies

June 5, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ Alfred Kazin, a cultural historian and critic who influenced generations of thinkers through his essays, reviews and books such as ``On Native Grounds,″ died Friday. It was his 83rd birthday.

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

Kazin tackled literary history, philosophy and other cultural concerns in more than a dozen books.

``Alfred was a kind of a dinosaur, but a giant _ The last great literary man of a generation that cared more for literature than money or celebrity,″ said his friend, Eric Alterman.

Among Kazin’s most acclaimed works was the 1942 book ``On Native Grounds,″ his history of American literature and society from the late 19th century to the beginning of World War II.

He knew the likes of Saul Bellow, Lionel Trilling and Edmund Wilson. And he wrote at the acclaimed magazine Partisan Review along with Mary McCarthy and Delmore Schwartz.

His reviews also appeared in the New Yorker, Harper’s, The New York Times and several other publications.

Even in his 80s, he was still writing reviews and completed ``God and the American Writer,″ an extensive work on 19th-century American authors.

``The older you get, the more intense life becomes, everything goes quickly, faster, the great sense of belonging to another period,″ Kazin said.

He wrote vividly about his New York boyhood in his 1951 book ``A Walker in the City.″ Another book was called ``New York Jew.″

``My friends, most of whom are Jewish, are as a matter of course nuts about literature, about music,″ he said in a 1997 Associated Press interview.

Riding on the subway in 1934, he read a New York Times book review and disagreed so strongly that he got off the train near the Times’ offices and confronted the critic, John Chamberlain. Kazin was soon writing criticism for the New Republic, thanks in part to Chamberlain, who recommended him as ``an intelligent radical.″

A collection of his journals was published under the title ``A Lifetime Burning in Every Moment.″

In addition to his wife, Kazin is survived by a sister, two children and three stepchildren.

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