Asylum or hospital
Asylum or hospital. Malone does not know where he is or how he got here, and since he is alone, no one else can answer his questions. All he can know for sure is that he is alone, disoriented, and baffled. Most immediately he is reliant on information his senses can provide, but since he is no longer capable of negotiating the world under his own power, what he can tell readers must come first of all from a fixed position. That he is in a room of spare furnishings is obvious enough simply from glancing around, and there is at least prima facie information that this room is in an institution of some kind, most likely an asylum. It is in any case the last stop on the train line, a home for the wretched.
Both the personal experiences Malone recounts and the tales he relates to amuse himself blur fiction with fact. Yet Samuel Beckett’s most careful readers have speculated where Malone is by taking clues from geographical details that his uttered memories contain. Given these memories, one speculation is that Malone is somewhere south of Dublin, Ireland, where Beckett spent time as a boy. For example, Malone recalls listening as a child to the barking of dogs at night in nearby hills. It has been suggested that this allusion is Beckett himself recalling hearing dogs from the hills west of Carrickmine, a pastoral area outside Dublin.
The primary “place” of the novel is inside Malone’s own mind, and that is central to what the novel is about. It is probably futile to expect fully to understand Malone Dies in terms of conventional notions of time and space. Try as Malone does to accept his fate, try as he does to surrender to the way of all flesh, Malone’s mind will not relent. This, above all, is what Malone Dies is about: the relentless struggle of human consciousness to sort through sensory data independent of whether or not that data are reliable, its struggle to organize, to find a pattern that makes sense of experience.