Michael Kinsley, a former editor at The New Republic who left the magazine in 1981 to become editor of Harper's magazine, will return to The New Republic in September as author of its famed TRB column.

For the past 40 years, TRB's weekly and influential look at the political scene has been written by Richard Strout, who announced in March at the age of 85 that he wanted "a little more freedom" and a chance to "simplify" his life.

"When Dick told us that he really was retiring--he's been retiring every two months for the past few years--I called Michael and said, 'Here's a chance that will allow you to do topical commentary,' " said New Republic editor-in-chief Martin Peretz. "When he left I had told him that he was always welcome back."

The deal was completed Tuesday evening, after two months of discussion, when Kinsley called Harper's board chairman Leon Botstein and told him he would be leaving the magazine. In addition to writing the column, Kinsley will be a senior editor at The New Republic.

"I'm sorry to see him go," Botstein said. "He's been responsible for the revival and good health of Harper's. I don't know who the new editor will be. We'll be setting up a search committee immediately."

Kinsley will leave Harper's in a few weeks, after closing its July issue.

"The chance to inherit a respected syndicated column is like Halley's Comet," said Kinsley, who in the past has been involved in a few controversies of the Kohoutek variety. While at The New Republic, Kinsley quit briefly after Peretz killed a story Kinsley had assigned; later, at Harper's, he was criticized for taking a free trip to Jerusalem, paid for by the Israeli government.

Kinsley's return to Washington, however, seems devoid of controversy. "I wouldn't say that I've missed Washington as much as I've missed not living in New York and all of life beyond the Hudson," he said. "I'll spend the summer goofing off and go to work at the column on September First."