Not overly new news, but the American translators David Dollenmayer and Breon Mitchell have both won prizes recently.
Dollenmayer took the Austrian Cultural Forum New York's (ACFNY) 2010 Translation Prize for his translation-in-progress of Michael Köhlmeier's Idyll With Drowning Dog (Idylle mit ertrinkendem Hund), a short novel first published in 2008. This is an award of $3000 for translations of contemporary Austrian fiction, poetry, and drama which have not previously appeared in English. The translator gets the actual cash if and when they find a US publisher for their project. And Dollenmayer gets a sparkly trophy too. Congratulations!
And the American Modern Languages Association has awarded its Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for a translation of a literary work to Breon Mitchell, for his astounding new translation of Günter Grass' The Tin Drum. Well done to him too - he gets an unspecified cash award, a certificate, and a one-year membership in the association.
Now without in any way questioning these choices, which seem mighty fine to me, I did notice something of an imbalance when I was looking at past winners of both the MLA award and the Helen and Kurt Wolff Prize. They have both mainly gone to men. Interestingly, this isn't the case for the British equivalent, the Schlegel-Tieck Prize - even if you discount the fact that Anthea Bell's won it six times over.
I was suprised at this imbalance, because I'm used to thinking that translation, and literary translation as a subset of that profession, is a female-dominated industry. That may be because I live in Germany, where so many books are translated that there are plenty of translators, and the profession is not particularly prestigious. So as with many other lowish-status language-related jobs, women dominate. My hypothesis is that because literary translation tends to be the preserve of academics in the USA, the gender make-up of the award winners thus reflects a gender imbalance in the upper echelons of academia.
I can't draw any conclusions about the British situation, other than a sneaking suspicion that literary translators without academic posts can survive there because there is greater call for non-literary translations. But that's just a wild guess - and as the pattern of multiple wins shows, there aren't a huge number of people in the industry in the UK either.