Truman Capote’s Christmas classic – in Maltese

Tifkira ta’ Milied has been translated by Ludvic Azzopardi Ferrando.

If we were to strip Christmas of all the decorations, sparkles, presents and parties, what would remain at its core? Most likely we’d find out that the essence of Christmas lies in the smallest of bottles: simple traditions, being generous to others, and sharing precious moments with loved ones. Christmas serves as a reminder that the smallest gesture can kindle genuine happiness that is not easily forgotten.

In this spirit, Merlin Publishers, with cofinancing support from the National Literacy Agency, has just unveiled Tifkira ta’ Milied, Ludvic Azzopardi Ferrando’s Maltese translation of Truman Capote’s classic, A Christmas Memory.

Tifkira ta’ Milied weaves a nostalgic tale around two close friends: Buddy, the seven year old narrator, and his distant elderly cousin. At the first hint of “fruitcake weather”, they embark on a quest for ingredients to bake fruitcakes for others; choose and decorate the Christmas tree; adorn the house and get presents for each other, despite being poor.

Penned by the renowned American author Truman Capote, this story, first published in 1956, draws from his childhood experiences in a rural Alabama town during the thirties. The narrative is evocative, revolving around traditions, friendship and generosity, while delicately touching the themes of solitude and loss. It’s not surprising that this classic story keeps being published, translated and adapted into different forms with great success worldwide.

Ludvic Azzopardi Ferrando, a seasoned translator, managed to render the story into Maltese in a truly authentic and sensitive manner. Reflecting on his experience, he shared how A Christmas Memory had left a lasting impact since he first read it in his secondary school days. Receiving it as a gift more than thirty years later, its impact deepened, resonating more profoundly as he could now grasp its more complex underpinnings.

Discussing the challenges of literary translation, Azzopardi Ferrando emphasised: “Translating literature demands not just understanding and interpreting words, but also feeling the emotions. Without emotional connection, you risk giving the reader a diluted version of the original work. You must feel happiness when the characters are happy, and sadness when they are sad. When your understanding becomes one with your feelings, the resulting Maltese version is completely different from the one based on understanding of the words alone.”

Bound in a hard cover that makes it ideal as a gift, the production of Tifkira ta’ Milied accords with the classic tale to give the book a retro feel, perfect to invoke warm memories of Christmases past. The narrative is complemented by American artist Beth Peck’s illustrations from 1989, which play a further part in giving the book its timeless aura.

Tifkira ta’ Milied is available in all bookshops and can be purchased online directly from merlinpublishers.com.

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