Ivar Lo-Johansson (1901-1990) was the last surviving member of the so-called "thirties generation" in Swedish literature: writers from impoverished, often rural backgrounds who were largely self-educated and who wrote extensively about their roots. His family in previous generations had been statare, or estate-workers, a category of non-landowning farm laborer attached to large baronial estates. In the 1950s the author began a series of autobiographical novels that examine the experiences of his youthful alter ego through the prism of humor and irony, yet without diminishing the reader's sympathy for the hardships the protagonist undergoes.
Gardfarihandlaren (Peddling My Wares), the second of these works, draws on the author's experiences when, as a youth of nineteen, he spent a summer cycling through Sweden trying to peddle "small goods." The protagonist is fleeing the limited horizons of his impoverished childhood while at the same time trying to come to terms with who he really is. Through a series of adventures, some comical, some unsettling, he gradually learns that a romantic dream of total freedom is both impossible and foolish. Peddling My Wares is one of the most critically acclaimed of Lo-Johansson's novels. It is also among the most popular, and has been reissued many times since its first appearance in 1953.