OXFORD-born Madrid-based journalist William Chislett talks about his successful campaign to get a memorial for Spanish émigré writer and Faringdon resident Arturo Barea in the Spanish capital.

THE émigré Spanish writer and star BBC broadcaster Arturo Barea, who lived on Lord Faringdon's Buscot Park estate until his death in 1957, 'returned' to Madrid this month when a square was named after him in Spain’s capital.

The inauguration of the square by Manuela Carmena, the mayor of Madrid, followed the restoration of Barea’s commemorative stone in the churchyard annexe to All Saints Church in Faringdon, in 2010, and the placing of a plaque in 2013 on the façade of The Volunteer, Barea’s favourite pub, all of which I organised.

The second Lord Faringdon, a supporter of the democratically-elected Spanish Republic against General Franco’s coup, let Barea and his Austrian wife Ilsa stay at Middle Lodge on the Buscot Park estate for ten years.

The lord had converted his Rolls-Royce into an ambulance and joined a British field hospital during the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War

Barea went into exile in 1938. He arrived in England, he said, 'spiritually smashed … I disembarked with nothing, my life was broken in two. I had no perspectives, no country, no job'.

What he did have with him was a draft of the first chapters of his autobiographical trilogy, The Forging of the Rebel, for which he is best known.

The books were first published in English in the 1940s, superbly translated by Ilsa and much praised by George Orwell, but were not published in Spain until 1977, two years after the death of Franco, the victor of the civil war.

They are widely regarded as one of the best ways of understanding Spain in the first decades of the 20th century and remain in print.

I first came across the work of Barea about 25 years ago after I moved back to Madrid from where I had covered Spain’s transition to democracy for The Times.

Finding his stone (Barea had been cremated in 1957) became something of an obsession. On my visits to Oxford, where my wife and I were born, we would go to Faringdon, but it was not until someone told us of the annexe during our third trip that we finally found the stone.

It seemed absurd that Barea was better commemorated in his country of exile than in his country of origin, so I helped launch a petition in December 2015 calling for a street or square to be bear his name in Madrid which garnered 2,500 signatures.

Barea joined the BBC Latin American Service in 1940 and until his death gave 856 15-minute broadcasts, under the pseudonym Juan de Castilla (John of Castile) in order to protect his family in Spain.

His starting brief was to counter Nazi propaganda in South America during the Second World War by presenting a positive view of British life. These reflective monologues regularly topped the listeners’ annual poll, and led the BBC to send Barea on a two-month tour of Latin America.

Barea was never able to return to Spain. Now he is back. And he will also come home to Oxford when a relative donates his archive to the Bodleian Library.

William Chislett will talk about Spain at the Oxford Literary festival on April 1 and 2.