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A Summer with Pascal

Antoine Compagnon

Translated by Catherine Porter

ISBN 9780674295414

Publication date: 05/07/2024

From an eminent scholar, a spirited introduction to one of the great polymaths in the history of Europe.

Blaise Pascal (1623–1662) is best known in the English-speaking world for his contributions to mathematics and physics, with both a triangle and a law in fluid mechanics named after him. Meanwhile, the classic film My Night at Maud’s popularized Pascal’s wager, an invitation to faith that has inspired generations of theologians. Despite the immensity of his reputation, few read him outside French schools. In A Summer with Pascal, celebrated literary critic Antoine Compagnon opens our minds to a figure somehow both towering and ignored.

Compagnon provides a bird’s-eye view of Pascal’s life and significance, making this volume an ideal introduction. Still, scholars and neophytes alike will profit greatly from his masterful readings of the Pensées—a cornerstone of Western philosophy—and the Provincial Letters, in which Pascal advanced wry theological critiques of his contemporaries. The concise, taut chapters build upon one another, easing into writings often thought to be forbidding and dour. With Compagnon as our guide, these works are not just accessible but enchanting.

A Summer with Pascal brings the early modern thinker to life in the present. In an age of profound existential doubt and assaults on truth and reason, in which religion and science are so often crudely opposed, Pascal’s sophisticated commitment to both challenges us to meet the world with true intellectual vigor.


  • Today’s students are lucky devils! Without difficulty, in an appealing way, they can grasp the essence of a classic writer thanks to this summer series…launched by Antoine Compagnon with Montaigne, continued with Baudelaire, and now enriched by A Summer with Pascal.

    —Bernard Pivot, Le Journal du Dimanche


  • Antoine Compagnon, a member of the Académie française, is Blanche W. Knopf Professor of French and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and Professor Emeritus at the Collège de France. He is the author of Proust Between Two Centuries, Five Paradoxes of Modernity, A Summer with Montaigne, and numerous other books. His work has been translated into nineteen languages.

Book Details

  • 184 pages
  • 5 x 7 inches
  • Belknap Press