'Malone Dies' - published in 1951 in French as 'Malone meurt', and subsequently translated by the author - is the second of the three novels that Beckett wrote in the late '40s. Gathered together in English, they are referred to collectively as the 'Beckett trilogy', though Beckett didn't sanction this view. Each of the three books is readable without knowledge of the others. Nonetheless, a prior reading of 'Molloy' will add to the experience of encountering 'Malone Dies'. (For that matter, there are also clear echoes of the earlier 'Murphy'.)
It is possible to see the two books - and the final novel, 'The Unnameable', in its turn - as different views of the same subject - just as 'Molloy' itself divides into two narratives, that of Molloy and that of Moran, in a way that blurs the separate identities of supposedly separate characters and calls into question the reliability of memory and narrative.
'Malone Dies' is also one of the primary texts of post-war metafiction. Alone in a room in what may be a hospice, mental asylum or prison, the aged Malone scribbles in an exercise book, recording and confusing events from his own life with that of fictional characters - two of whom, the boy Sapo and the itinerant McMann, may not in fact be fictional. From these fragments Beckett weaves an infuriating almost-narrative, a Cubist autobiography that mimics both the motions of a dying man's consciousness and the willed, frail coherence of fictional story-telling. In doing so it manages the peculiarly Beckettian trick of convincing the reader that the human condition is simultaneously farcical and tragic.
For the reader who knows Beckett only through the famous plays, this and the pre-war 'Murphy' are the most approachable of the novels. 'Malone Dies' may also seem oddly familiar because it has been widely influential on post-war avant-garde writing, though very few later writers have managed as Beckett does to combine high formal intelligence with humanity.