Interview Prof. Konrad Eisenbichler



     Last semester has been lecturing at our university one of the best specialist for the Renaissance culture in Italy, prof. Konrad Eisenbichler. He teaches the Renaissance studies at University of Toronto, his work focuses on the intersection of literature, politics and religion in fifteenth and sixteenth century Italy. He won several prices for his works. For his contribution to Italian culture, he has been knighted by the President of Italy at the rank of Knight Commander in the Order of Merit of the Republic of Italy (2010) and inducted into the Venetian chivalric order of the Knights of St Mark (2014). He is also the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian Society for Renaissance Studies (2012). Prof. Eisenbichler kindly agreed to give us a brief interview.

When you recollect your university studies, what do you like to think about?
     Most of all, I like to think of the friends I had when I was a student. Most of these were fellow students, but some were also faculty members who went out of their way to get to know students and to be involved with them in various projects. Among the students, I remember with particular warmth my small group of “buddies” with whom I shared classes, lunch-times, relaxation, etc. They were all very smart and very engaging. The sad part is that some of them were also avid smokers and they (the smokers) are now all dead. I miss them a lot. Among the faculty members, I like to think back to those who took part in various extracurricular activities, such as performing musical pieces or putting on plays. I remember
fondly the “Czech String Quartet”,
four Czech string players who became exiles in Canada after 1968 and were “adopted” by McMaster University (where I was studying at that time) as a quartet in residence; they performed chamber music every Thursday at lunch time for the students at the university and they were great.

What was the most difficult thing you had to overcome during your studies?
     Learning how to analyze. It is not easy to read a text and put it in context, extract its meaning, its message, its subtext.

You are one of the greatest experts at Renaissance Italy, author of many books and articles. What is for you the most fascinating aspect of your job?
     Doing research in the archives. One never knows what wonderful information the archives will yield, but it is a long and laborious process that requires not only specialized skills such as paleography or languages, but also a lot of patience (and luck).

What would you like to recommend to the current students of history?
     Don’t believe everything you read. History is written by the winners, and the winners are often wrong in their assessment of what happened. A historian worthy of that name should be able to read past the biases of both the winners and the losers so as to come to a more balanced understanding of what really happened in the past. 

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