Saturday, February 11, 2017

On the Museum of Broken Relationships

I'm writing from the coffeeshop of the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb. It's the second time I've been here. Zagreb is a museum-heavy city, and many of the museums are housed in lovely yellow buildings. The museums reflect the city's reputation as a little sister of the other sizable towns once ruled by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The art museums just aren't going to meet the standards of what you get in Vienna, and the archaeological museum, which is worth visiting, isn't going to match what you get in Athens or Rome. I'm a big fan of the Museum of Contemporary Art, partly because its collection of Yugoslav abstract art is relevant to my research, and I'm also a fan of the Museum of Broken Relationships, which a local friend described to me as the only Zagreb museum she really loves.

The museum collects artifacts from various break-ups, the mementoes that ex-lovers leave behind. The objects are accompanied by mini-memoirs. Some of the stories are bittersweet, some funny, many of them consumed by carnage. Everyone has their favorite object/story. Mine is the stilletto boot. The story: woman meets a childhood sweetheart thirty years after their break-up. She has retired from prostitution, but has made a brief return as a dominatrix. He is a customer. They recognize each other. And after a few hours they part, never to see each other again. There's also a creepy, formal suicide note left by a mother to her child, and a complete edition of Proust with the final 200 pages ripped out. A couple had read the book aloud to each other, but despite the length of their relationship, they didn't finish the book before they broke up.

If any comic-book artists are reading this blog, I highly suggest you consider a trip to Zagreb to adapt these stories into a book. My friend Justin Hall has self-published a series of mini-comics called True Sex Stories. I think this museum would provide him with excellent material.

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