“I’m Going to be a Businessman”: Learning about Money and Class in Ulf Stark’s Ulf and Percy Trilogy
Ulf Stark’s Min vän Percys magiska gymnastikskor (My Friend Percy’s Magical Gym Shoes, 1991), Min vän shejken i Stureby (My Friend Percy and the Sheik, 1995) and Min vän Percy, Buffalo Bill och jag (My Friend Percy and Buffalo Bill, 2004) are entertaining and ironic tales of a boy’s childhood in 1950s Stockholm. The partially autobiographical trilogy on Ulf and his friend Percy takes up common themes in children’s literature such as the conflict between freedom and socialization, the longing for adventure, and the development, through constant interaction with one’s peers in a deeply homosocial world, of a sense of self and of an idea of manhood. The trilogy also reflects the ideological views on childhood and child development within the so-called folkhem, where children are seen as “citizens in the making,” striving for independence and social mobility in a society that tries to combine the common good with individual freedom. Though ostensibly oblivious to class issues, the children in Stark’s novels learn about class differences through dealing with “stuff”: having things or not having them, trying to get the things they want, learning the exchange value of the things they have in order to trade them for other things – these are amongst the main preoccupations of the characters in Stark’s trilogy. This paper intends to investigate how the relationship between Ulf and Percy allows Stark to discuss the often paradoxical economic ideology of the folkhem, and how material objects are used as a narrative strategy to make class differences visible in a world that tries to deny them.
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