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Heidi Sævareid

Text: Natalia Fiszka Pictures: Kasia Kiliszek

Everyone needs some sort of release.

Now close your eyes and imagine that you’re sitting all comfortable on the floor with your knees pulled up all the way so that they’re touching your chin. You’re holding your legs as if you were hugging someone close, your forehead resting on the bended knees. Your eyes shut peacefully. Can you feel how safe you are? Now imagine that a person approaches you from behind. You can feel their breath on your neck. Suddenly you hear a metallic sound. This same person who came near you only seconds ago places one hand on your left shoulder and uses their right hand to put a ten-centimetre-long steel hook through the loose bit of skin covering your right shoulder. They subsequently pierce your body in multiple places with more steel hooks. Can you see it happening? Now imagine your body being suspended above the ground on those hooks. How does it feel? A Norwegian writer and a literary critic, Heidi Sævareid, confessed to me that paradoxically body suspensions bring a relief to her.

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A piece of each book I write becomes a part of my life.

There are autobiographical elements in nearly every bit of fiction you’ve read. They might reveal themselves in the setting, the way characters are being constructed, plot, types of narration authors choose or in particular wording. Heidi admits that there’s a lot of her in her works. Her writing techniques and a thorough research, to some bordering on crazy, mirror the complexity of her inner self. Once called a literary extremist, Sævareid uses a method similar to a technique developed by the Russian actor Constantine Stanislavsky (The Stanislavsky Method) in order to gain an insight in what she’s writing about. It means that she quite literary immerses herself in the experiences she explores in her books.

When creating, Heidi Sævareid focuses on power imbalance and power dynamics. The above-mentioned body suspensions is a practice Heidi started while doing research for her second book titled Slipp Hold (Release Restrain), which tells a story of a girl who breaks free from emotional abuse and finds her relief in body suspensions. Physical pain simply becomes her freedom. The latest published book Slagside (Lopsided) gives us an insight into the life of an emotionally detached young woman with violent tendencies. For the purpose of learning more about physical agression and fighting, Heidi got herself into martial arts and started training Krav Maga and then Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which she does until today. “You’re very naked when you fight another person”, Heidi says. What she means is that by fighting somebody who is fighting you back, you have a rare opportunity of being your true self. This fight is the only thing you focus on. You’ll never know your body better than when standing against another person for real. You are extremely close but in a completely non-sexual way. This way you simply come to understand your body is a tool that can be used to work against somebody else. Or in tune with it.

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Freedom is what I cherish most.

Heidi Sævareid cannot stand still. She claims that to move forward and to evolve is her freedom. To explore extreme states of mind is her driving force. To create is the ultimate autonomy to her. It seems to me that there are two women who are mainly responsible for Heidi’s strong feelings about her freedom. One of them is a Swedish-speaking Finnish artist Tove Jansson, best know for her children’s series about Moomins. Yet, it’s not the children’s writing that Heidi appreciates most in Jansson’s work, but her lesser-known novels and short stories for adults. “Jansson was a bold person who broke boundaries and this is what fascinates me about her”, Heidi says. The other one is Sævareid’s grandmother, who passed not only the love for books but also the feminist gene on to Heidi. Campaigning for women’s rights in the seventies, she became an icon for her granddaughter. “I feel extremely privileged and I am grateful to my grandma for the work she did for all of us women. But this was only the beginning. We need to continue what they’d started back then”.