I first met Bivar in Salisbury during the summer of 1970, when I was not yet 18 years old. He had travelled from London with his close friend, the poet José (‘Zé’) Vicente, attracted by the medieval cathedral and the Neolithic stones of Stonehenge. After visiting the Stones, Zé returned to London but Bivar – for no obvious reason – decided to remain in Salisbury.
Sitting in the cathedral close, he met ‘the most fantastic creature’. This was my friend Roger, who took him to a house where he would meet ‘some nice people’. 63 Saint Anne Street was a classic hippy house, with people sleeping all over the place and drifts of rubbish and broken down furniture everywhere else. I was one of the people.
On a further whim, he asked if he could stay with us for a while. He seemed to find us both interesting and friendly, and this was the beginning of several deep friendships that lasted through the years. We would connect here in Salisbury, back in London, and later in Glastonbury.
The resulting wild, though innocent and sometimes trippy adventures were a theme that appeared and re-appeared through his books Verdes Vales do Fim do Mundo (Green Valleys at the End of the World) and Longe Daqui, Aqui Mesmo (Far from here and Here as well), which he was writing as he travelled. They were eventually published, in much edited form, in 1984 and 1995 respectively – and brought him a cult following in Brazil.
The award financed his first trip to Europe, and he spent time in London, Dublin and Paris (and New York), as well as at the Isle of Wight festival, and at Worthy Farm near Glastonbury whilst the 1971 Glastonbury Fair was in preparation. He was based with the Brazilian ex-patriate community in Notting Hill Gate; his contemporaries there included the musician Gilberto Gil who later became Minister of Culture in Lula’s government of 2003-2010.
He returned to Britain in 1971-73, and intermittently over the following decades. London, he once said, was his favourite city in the world. He saw the birth of the Punk subculture in London, and became fascinated with the movement. His first published book was O que é Punk? (What is Punk?) in 1982, and he also organised O Começo do Fim do Mundo (The Start of the End of the World), Brazil’s first Punk festival, held in Sao Paulo in 1982. He was the Brazilian correspondent for the San Francisco Punk Fanzine ‘Maximumrockandroll’ for several years.
More books followed, mostly biographies and memoirs of his travels. He is remembered in Brazil as one of the ‘Beat Generation’ and his books include James Dean and Jack Kerouac, o rei dos beatniks, though his time in London coincided with the height of the hippy movement in Britain. Besides Punk, he was a lifelong admirer of the Incredible String Band.
There he met Jenny Thompson, who was to be his partner until her death in 2008, and he began writing the book Bivar na Corte de Bloomsbury which was published in 2005. He returned to Charleston Farmhouse each year until 2004, and became a close friend of Vanessa Bell’s son Quentin Bell, and his wife Anne Olivier Bell.
He also stayed in touch with Jenny’s family after her death, and was made ‘honorary grandfather’ of her grandson, born in 2013.
In Brazil his output was considerable during this period, including his best-seller Yolanda (2004), about Yolanda Penteado who was something of a Brazilian folk heroine during the 1950s. During this period new editions of several of his earlier books were also published; nevertheless he still had to write a monthly column for a ‘glamorous’ magazine in order to pay his bills.
In 2014 Mundo Adentro Vida Afora (World Inside Life Outside) was published. This was written as a prequel to Verdes Vales and Longe Daqui, telling the story of his life up until he first travelled to Europe. Although he had trouble finding a publisher, because it was at first considered not to be ‘commercial’, this was the book that he himself felt was his best.
An extended version of this article is now available here.