When I went travelling around Croatia with my boyfriend a few years ago, there was one place I was desperate to visit. The Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb was founded by two local artists, Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić, who’s own breakup provided the inspiration to create a permanent exhibition of breakup memorabilia and the intimate histories they represent.
This book is a companion to the museum’s collection, detailing a lot of the diverse objects and contributors’ stories that are on display. Dedicated to “anyone who has ever caught a flicker of love and seen it disappear”, it explores what it feels like to lose love in all its forms; romantic, familial, unrequited, passionate, platonic.
“What can one do with the frail ruins of a love affair? If you enter the phrase broken relationship into any search engine, in any language, you will be offered a series of self-help instructions describing how to unload your emotional burden as quickly as possible… But is total erasure the only way out?”
From a wedding dress stuffed into a jar, postcards from a childhood sweetheart and a wind-up toy bunny to a smashed garden gnome, silicone breast implants and herpes medication, each object is displayed beside its story, written anonymously in the donor’s own words. Some are deeply sad, of course, but many are funny, bizarre and curious. However, it is the rawness and honesty of every contribution which really draws you in, sometimes offering moments of comfort, relief and even solidarity between us as the reader and the unknown authors.
The format of the book is perfect for dipping in and out, providing those little moments of distraction and human connection we often need when we feel like shit. However, what I really love about it (and loved about the museum) is its acknowledgement that letting go does not need to equal a rejection or total destruction of the past.
“The melancholic beauty that emerges from rifts we experience during the course of our lives has been unjustly banished from public conversation, in the same way bags and wrinkles are erased by a Photoshop brush.”
We live in a society and a time which congratulates positive experiences (think what people post on social media), whilst simultaneously trying to sweep fragments of negativity and failure under the rug. This project shuns that, instead creating a cathartic celebration of lost love and human connection. It shows us that the grief we feel when a relationship ends is universal and not something to just get over or pretend never happened, but something to accept, even honour for what it is. It is only then, are we truly able to move forward.
If you ever get the chance to go to Zagreb, or catch one of the museum’s travelling exhibitions, you should. But, in the interim, this book is a reminder of “the miraculous ways we love and lose” and how important it is to feel those moments of human connection, no matter how brief, long-ago or complicated they may be.
“Contrary to its evocative title, the Museum of Broken Relationships is full of life, yearning, and hope. It is a tribute to the resilience of the human spirit, which is, luckily and amazingly enough, almost always ready to give love a new chance.”
Every month we share a book we have found helpful- whether it has helped to lift us out of a dark place, build up our mental health toolkit, made us laugh or was simply too brilliant not to share. And we want you to get involved too! Let us know what you thought of this month’s book in the comments below or on social media (use the hashtag #ECBCBookClub).
Reading is proven to reduce stress, improve your mental and emotional health and is a great way to make time for yourself. Let’s do it together!