Thursday, July 28, 2011

Leo Averbach: The IAN Interview

I was born and raised in South Africa, lived on a kibbutz in Israel for 5 years before moving to London. I was married for 20 years, fathered 3 children and then divorced. After remarrying I returned to Israel and now live in the Jerusalem Hills, where I write and run a pottery studio. A few years ago I decided to resurrect the journal chronicling the breakup of my marriage and recovery that became my book "Breakup: Enduring Divorce."

IAN. Please tell us about Break up

L.A. Breakup is a brutally honest and surprising divorce memoir, written as a journal in real time. The narrative interweaves the story of my painful divorce with my therapy in a deeply-reflective, intimate manner and reveals how I changed and eventually came through my ordeal better for it. It's a veritable odyssey of self-discovery.

IAN. How long did it take to write the book?

LA. BREAKUP is taken word-for-word from a hand-written diary I kept at the time of my divorce. The diary ran to almost 2000 pages, all stored in a friend's garage in London… and I was in Israel. Once I decided to resurrect the diary as a book, it took me about three years to get it into a coherent digital format. Of course it had to be trimmed, chapters added, etc.

IAN. What inspired you to write the book?

LA. You will be surprised to hear that what inspired me to write the book was a Green Sweater. I broke my ankle on July 4th 2005 and while sitting on the patio of my pottery studio gazing at the sunset the thought suddenly struck me that my life story was encapsulated by an object hanging behind the door – a green sweater. This sweater was knitted for me when I was a teenager in South Africa and I have lugged it around with me for almost fifty years. It is in good nick but is getting a bit tight for me!

IAN. Talk about the writing process. Do you write at night or in the morning?

L.A. Writing was difficult because it threw me back to agony of my divorce. What I was experiencing immediately expressed itself in my journal and I began to write furiously to keep pace with events. Every day, at all hours, I poured my heart and soul into my journal, unexpurgated and unfiltered. I just wrote, page after page. Sometimes the writing took the form of reams of flowing prose. At others it appeared as telegraphic notes, numbers or even doodles and symbols. In parts it is elegant, quasi-poetic script in others an almost illegible, crude, disjointed scrawl – all faithfully reflecting the fluctuations of my mood.

I had to get my feelings out of my system and onto the paper. The very act of writing was cathartic; things written suddenly assumed a clarity that was absent before. In short, my journal became my veritable “shoulder to cry on,” my refuge, my confidant. I continued recording my therapy sessions as well. Sometimes it is difficult to know where the therapy ends and where “life” begins.

IAN. Did you use an outline or do you just wing the first draft?

L.A. It was all there. All I had to do was cut it drastically (there was a lot of repetition) and divide the material into chapters, add a prologue and an epilogue.

IAN. How is your book different from others in your genre?

L.A. BREAKUP is different on a few counts. Firstly, it is a real-life memoir, written as events were unfolding, not in retrospect, with the 'advantage' of hindsight. It is executed from the inside and I do not know of any other divorce memoir like it. Secondly, it is a divorce memoir written by a man, from a man's perspective and expressing a man's vulnerability. Sadly, this is unusual as the great majority of the divorce discourse is conducted by women. I am trying to encourage men to be more open about their divorce experiences. Lastly, the book records my therapy sessions and integrates the insights I gained into my everyday life. The combination of an intimate account of therapy in a divorce situation is exceptional.

IAN. Is your book published in print, e-book or both?

LA. BREAKUP is available as a paperback book and as a Kindle e-book.

IAN. What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?

L.A. 1. A sense of what divorce feels like; some sort of map of the territory, the minefield.

2. An aid to negotiating the crisis; what to emulate and what to avoid.

3. An awareness that despite the tribulations divorce can end well.

4. Some snippets of wisdom about relationships and emotions.

5. A feeling of having been on a roller-coaster ride. WOW.

IAN. Where can we go to buy your book?

L.A. BREAKUP can be bought online from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository and other distributors.

IAN. Tell us about your next book or a work in progress. Is it a sequel or a stand alone?


It's about divorce but it is not a memoir.

IAN. Any other links or info you'd like to share?

L.A. My website:

BREAKUP: Enduring divorce by Leo Averbach

260 pages

Genre: Memoir

Lexicon Books

20 Apr 1991

After an extraordinary night.

I confronted Paula and she told me what was happening. As I suspected, she is involved with Shawn, a guy she has been working with for a few years. I was relieved I was right and kind of accepted. It is better knowing, for the moment.

Leo, the ultimate nice guy. Mensch. Where is my anger? Can I just take this with equanimity? Why do I feel so calm? Am I scared to explode the whole thing? Am I trying to win her back?

She says she loves me for it. How ironic. And yet, it feels okay. I can handle it. It is weird being in a situation I cannot talk about with friends. This is the central theme in my life and I won’t be talking about it.

How long will it last? She may want to stop but he needs her desperately. I have grown up a bit; I can call up my gods. I don’t feel like rushing off to find someone to caress.

Paula says I have saved the marriage by my action. Well, do we really want to save it? She says, yes. Let’s try and keep it going for a while. She needs lots of space. I think I can give it to her. We have been more affectionate lately than almost ever before. There was some release of tension, especially last night.

I feel hurt, very. The love I wanted from you, you have lavished elsewhere. That is painful. But, I can recognize the pain and bear it. Somehow, I see the world clearer today. The colours are sharper and I am more certain of myself.

Again I ask: Am I just burying my anger and rage, like I did when I was a child, or am I just aware of the pain, anger and rage and therefore able to tolerate it? What I felt in the past, the deathly sickness in my guts, is not there now. That was powerlessness, insecurity, rage and fear.

I went for a walk on the Heath and tried to find the warm, all-loving mother within me. It’s not easy, but I am more accepting of myself. I am not Tom Jones or Sigmund Freud, yet able to be “average.” Almost.

It seems crazy to me that I might not need love from another person, that I can supply all the love I need. This is a turning point in my life. Now I have to move towards real independence and integrity, although I am still not able to regress. Where is the four-year-old me?

21 Apr 1991

Can I sit and watch her in a love relationship? They say the worst pain is at the beginning; it gets easier as time goes on. At what point do I throw in the towel, cut my losses? Don’t expect me to wait around. What has this changed, anyway? Our relationship is not worse, perhaps better. If I can bear it it’s a better situation. But what about me? I am her slave.

She says she is basically monogamous but is torn. She is torn between love, passion and care on the one hand and family, mediocrity, boredom on the other. What choice?? You are caught between nice guy Leo who you can’t really get it together with and nice guy Shawn who is problematic to live with.

I see my wife has found a love situation and I am looking on it from the outside. I envy her situation. I am not really jealous of Shawn because I don’t think Paula and I could find that love.

Did I push her into it? What were my unconscious motives? Did I want an excuse for my own longings? Did I want the titillation that comes from extreme emotion, i.e., self-flagellation? And what am I going to do about it? Just take it as it comes. There is more passion there than I first thought. That is not surprising. At the same time, there is more passion between us than there has been in a long, long time. We are intimate. I am thinking warmly about her. I want her to love me.

I find myself trying to gain her love, but maybe I should just push off. I am not going to find love here, only aggravation and pain. She says, “Wait a while, I’ll be back.” Will she? Do I want her?

22 Apr 1991

I am sad, I am angry, I am in tears. I feel alive. I feel the loss, I feel the pain, but I still go on.

What was I like as a little boy? I had some sense of it in the shower. Nine, ten years old. Helpless, scared, uncertain and yet something in me said, “You’ll be okay, Leo. You’ll be fine.” And I smiled. That was the voice of my internal mother. I was crying because I felt such an utter failure, so helpless, so pathetic. I was angry with Paula, so angry I could have throttled her.

Surely it is plain as daylight—she doesn’t love me. She thinks I am a nice guy. A mensch. Something in her says, and has always said, “He is the one to marry and live with. I can trust him, he will love and care for me. But he has never really excited me, made me want to do cartwheels, made the world sharp and my skin tingle.”

I alternate between wanting to please her and wanting to throttle her. I have said how much I love her and that she does not have to choose. I have said that I love her so much that I can even tolerate her loving someone else. But at the same time I AM ANGRY. I AM MAD. I AM FURIOUS.

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