Georges-Hippolyte Adrien was born at 46, Rue du Bac in Paris, to linen draper Honoré-Charles-Emile Adrien, born in 1822 in the Charente, and Françoise-Sidonie Adrien, née Chatel. His brother, Henri-Gaston Darien, was born two years later, in 1864. Henri-Gaston was later to become a peintre du genre specializing in interiors and scenes of Paris life. He exhibited in the Salons of 1896 and 1897, received the Légion d'honneur in 1910, and died in 1926.
Darien's mother died in 1869. His father remarried an Alsatian Protestant, Elise-Antoinette Schlumberger, born in 1839. Their daughter Jeanne was born in 1873 in Versailles and died in 1914. Strict religiosity of Darien's stepmother contrasted with the anti-clericalist views that he would come to adopt.
Following an undistinguished baccalaureate earned at the Lycée Charlemagne in Paris, in March 1881, Darien voluntarily enlisted in the army for five years. Between June 1883 and March 1886, he served in a disciplinary unit, the Battalions of Light Infantry of Africa, in the Tunisian desert. His service there included a total of nearly a year of confinement in Gafsa, the Tunisian prison camp.
In 1889 Darien published his first book, Bas les cœurs!, a satire of the impact of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 and the Paris Commune of 1871 on a French bourgeois family living in the provinces. It was followed in 1890 by Biribi, discipline militaire. As experienced personally by the author, the prison camp was not a mere penitentiary; it was the ultimate punishment that the French Army reserved for its insubordinates. The book inspired a campaign that succeeded, albeit only nominally, in the reform of prison camps. However, the Gafsa camp remained open until the 1920s, succumbing as a result of a campaign conducted by Albert Londres. The same year saw the publication of Les Chapons and Les vrais Sous-offs, followed in 1891 by Les Pharisiens, a fictional indictment of French antisemitism and its most prominent advocate, Édouard Drumont, and the only exception among the novels that Darien uniformly narrated in the first person.
Between 1893 and 1905, Darien frequently travelled to and resided in London. He embraced British culture and became a fluent speaker and writer of English. He also lived in Brussels and Wiesbaden. Many aspects of his life between 1891 and 1897 remain unknown. Darien's lifelong paucity of official earnings has inspired some of his readers to impute the fictional exploits of Georges Randal, the daring burglar protagonist of his 1897 novel Le Voleur, to its author.
In 1899 Darien married Suzanne Caroline Abresch, born in 1863 in London, of German parents. In the following year he wrote his violent pamphlet La Belle France. It was published in 1901 by Stock. In 1903 and 1904 Darien contributed articles to the anarchist periodical L'Ennemi du peuple until its demise, precipitated by his polemic with Charles Malato. He played a prominent part among the organizers and participants of the Antimilitarist Congress that took place in Amsterdam in June and July 1904. In the same year Darien published L'Épaulette, which inaugurated the program of complementing The Human Comedy of Honoré de Balzac with his own Comédie inhumaine. Gottlieb Krumm: made in England. Written in English, this novel recounts the story of its eponymous narrator and protagonist, a nearly penniless adventurer who embarks for England with his wife and their three children after squandering her dowry in their native Germany. Krumm makes no secret of his character: "I am not hindered by common scruples (if I am not familiar with them, it is only because I wish to have for them a lasting respect, and familiarity breeds contempt)." Determined to make a fortune, he employs unorthodox means including arson, extortion, matrimonial swindle, and imposture. Krumm's unsavory stratagems yield spectacular success in the financial capital of the fin de siècle.
Throughout his early life, Darien disclaimed all political affiliations:
Inutile de vous dire que je ne me donne ni comme socialiste ni comme anarchiste, je n'ai rien à faire avec ces vieilleries. Je suis simplement un homme révolté par l'horreur de la situation générale et, n'étant ni assez intelligent ni assez savant pour me conduire en citoyen du monde, je désire me révolter simplement comme Français.
English: It is useless to tell you that I present myself neither as a socialist nor as an anarchist; I have nothing to do with these relics. I am simply a man revolted by the horror of the general situation and, being neither sufficiently intelligent nor sufficiently learned to comport myself as a citizen of the world, I wish to revolt simply as a Frenchman.
(Quoted by Auriant.)
Darien anticipated Louis-Ferdinand Céline by pointing out the convergence of the aspirations of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie towards their consolidation within a single class. His political idiosyncrasy gave way to an espousal of Georgism, which he discovered some time in the late 1890s. Starting in 1912, Darien vigorously promoted the Georgist ideal of a single land value tax through the Ligue pour l'Impôt unique. Toward the same end, he involved himself in politics by running without any success in local, cantonal, and legislative elections of Paris.
Dedicating himself to theater, Darien saw Le Parvenu staged at the Bouffes du Nord, followed by Chez les Zoaques, featuring young Sacha Guitry. His activities between 1914 and 1918, during La Grande Guerre, remain unknown. Widowed and remarried, Georges Darien died on 19 August 1921.
André Breton characterized Darien as "A heart too big and beating too well not to knock in every sense against the walls of its cage." He described his writings as "the most rigorous assault that I know against hypocrisy, imposture, stupidity, cowardice".
- Bas les coeurs ! (1889)
- Biribi (1890)
- Le Voleur (1897)
- La Belle France (1898)
- L'Epaulette (1901) (not published)
- L'ami de l'ordre (1898)
- Auriant (Alexandre Hadjivassiliou), Darien et l'inhumaine comédie, Brussels: Ambassade du livre, 1966
- W.D. Redfern, Georges Darien: Robbery and Private Enterprise, Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1985
- David Bosc, Georges Darien, Éditions Sulliver, 1996
- Valia Gréau, Georges Darien et l'anarchisme littéraire, Editions du Lérot, 2002
- "Un cœur trop grand et trop bien battant pour ne pas heurter en tout sens les parois de sa cage."
- ("le plus rigoureux assaut que je sache contre l'hypocrisie, l'imposture, la sottise, la lâcheté")