In 1984 he scored his international breakthrough with the book ‘Dårfinkar och dönickar’, which won the Bonniers Junior Publishers’ Competition. Stark grew up in a Stockholm suburb. He was the son of a dentist. His father had his practice on the ground floor of the house and Stark, his mother and brother lived upstairs. There are numerous autobiographical references such as these in his books, the first person narrator usually having the author’s name.
This is the case in ‘Kan du vissla Johanna’ (Engl: Can You Whistle, Johanna, 1992, filmed in 1994 by Rumle Hammerich), for which Stark and his illustrator Anna Höglund received the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis. Berra is jealous of his best friend Ulf’s grandfather. The two boys go on a hunt for a suitable grandfather for Berra and find one in a retirement home. The old man wants to teach Berra how to whistle, but when the boy finally masters the art, his “borrowed” grandpa dies. At the funeral Berra whistles a farewell salute ‘Can you whistle, Johanna?’.
The author states “I think grief has to be included so that the joy is clear”. Stark’s books describe childhood fears and hopes and appeal to those who are stronger not to forget their responsibility towards those weaker than themselves.
His latest publication was the story ‘Ensam med min bror’ (2000). Stark is now one of the most widely read authors in Sweden.
© international literature festival berlin