Writer and journalist, close friend of Federico García Lorca. He maintained a copious correspondence with him and has provided numerous valuable testimonies about his life and work. He is considered the sole repository of the work The Public, which he unveiled in 1970. However, Isabel García Lorca doubts in her memoirs, My Memories, published in 2002, the legitimate provenance of some manuscripts and suggests that she took them without permission from the Madrid home during the Civil War.
According to his own testimony, Martínez Nadal was the last person to see Lorca in Madrid on July 16, 1936 before leaving by train for Granada to celebrate in the Huerta de san Vicente farmhouse the feast of Saint Federico on July 18.
At the Residencia de Estudiantes he met Lorca. From there, a friendship between the two began that would last until two months before the poet’s assassination.
Martínez Nadal studied law in Madrid, while cultivating friendships with intellectuals and athletes of the time. He himself was a prominent boxer and participated in circles opposed to the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera.
Married to Jacinta Castillejo, in 1934 he moved to London, although he often came to Spain. In England he worked as a newspaper correspondent. During the Civil War he used the pseudonym Antonio Torres. Jacinta’s mother was British and her father was the famous republican doctor José Castillejo, one of the most active reformers of the Institución Libre de Enseñanza (Free Teaching Institution), promoter of the Residencia de Estudiantes (Students’ Residence). There, on Poplar Hill, she met Federico García Lorca. From that moment on, a friendship began between them that lasted until two months before the poet’s murder.
In 1935, he was appointed Assistan Lecturer at King’s College. At the beginning of the Civil War he was in Spain preparing for the vacations and from the beginning he saw it as a “huge stupidity” so, despite considering himself a “lifelong Republican” he avoided taking part in the conflict. He returns to London and begins a series of programs on the BBC under the title The Voice of London in which he deals with issues relating to Spain and the war. He maintained a close relationship with the Spanish exiles and he managed to collect and publish numerous books of experiences and texts.
In 1963, he published for the first time in the magazine Residencia of Mexico The Last Day of Federico García Lorca in Madrid where he reconstructs the poet’s last hours before leaving for Granada and his doubts about whether or not to stay in Madrid. “Rafael, these fields are going to be filled with dead people,” Lorca confided to him in a premonition that July 16. When they were about to leave on their way to the station, Lorca handed him the manuscript of The Public: “He opened a drawer in the table and took out a package and said to me: “Take it. Keep this for me. If anything happens to me you destroy everything. If not, you’ll give it to me when we meet.”
Isabel García Lorca is suspicious of this account. “I suspect that some of [Lorca’s manuscripts came] from his desk drawers during the war, because the doorman, who knew him well, let him in several times. If not, how else can you explain that he had letters from me to Federico, even a postcard I sent him from Epidauros? I never believed in the story he told about the manuscript of The Public […]. Could Federico have suspected what his fate would be? […]. I should have collected everything before leaving Madrid, but I didn’t. I couldn’t.
His books related to the Spanish exile in England are numerous, Luis Cernuda, the Man and his Subjects; José Castillejo, the Man and his Work in ‘The Voice of London’; Republicans and Monarchists in Exile, 1944-1956; Miguel de Unamuno, Two vignettes, and José María Quiroga Pla, Man and Poet Exiled in Paris (1951-1955), Federico García Lorca. My penultimate book about the man and the poet.
He died in Madrid at the age of 96.