Books: Poetry of Perception

HISTOIRE by Claude Simon. 341 pages. Braziller. $5.95.

To the French truth seekers known as New Novelists, the trouble with traditional hesaid, she-said fiction is that it creates only the cozy illusion of life, not the awesome awareness of it. True awareness, they say, lies in the endless inner space of consciousness, and that can only be approximated in literature, just as iron filings can indicate but never duplicate a magnetic field. New Novelists also agree that plot, characterization and psychology are outmoded: Freud is forsaken for Heidegger's phenomenology and the cold squint...