Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The narrator makes repeated references to “cool jazz.” This is one of many clues that Huber offers to the underlying meaning of his deceptively simple story. The writing style of “The New Apartment” itself emulates the techniques of modern jazz. Modern jazz is muted, flatted, understated, experimental, and emotionally subdued. Huber is writing the literary equivalent of what he calls “cool jazz.” Modern jazz, like all jazz, emphasizes variations on a theme, which might be one of the so-called “standards” by composers like George Gershwin and Cole Porter, or a few bars of original notes that offer opportunities for improvisation. The theme must be known in order for the variations to be appreciated. In Huber’s story the theme is the war and its aftermath; the text can only be understood by reference to the underlying theme of guilt, grief, fear, hope, and uncertainty—all of which are so well known to the Germans that their explicit expression is unnecessary.

Modern jazz musicians, like Huber’s middle-class Germans of the 1950’s, are searching for new directions; they are improvising. The choice of “cool jazz” as both a symbol and a literary technique is admirably appropriate to this short story. It is a brilliant overarching metaphor that, like all good metaphors, has ramified implications.

It is evident that Huber’s characters are living in the western part of Germany, where democracy and free enterprise are...

(The entire section is 591 words.)