ILDERIM REBREANU: A legacy ending

It was 1976 when Ilderim Rebreanu discovered that a little bit of talent was passed down from his uncle. When he discovered this, he wrote a couple of sketches and realized that maybe a spec of talent was in him as well. In 1977 he began to write his first novellas which appeared later on: “Not then, of course, dear me, they would have arrested me. No publishing house would have published my work, even more so, they would have handed me over to “Securitate” (the communist secret police)  if I tried.”

Ilderim Rebreanu / Photo: personal archive

High-schoolers in Romania learn a lot about Liviu Rebreanu’s novel “Ion” in the 12th grade. It is a requirement for the baccalaureate exam, an end-of-high-school exam, with the main focus on Romanian country customs and how money overturns love. Most of the pupils see it as a burden and therefore remember the authors’ name but never actually find out more. Liviu Rebreanu is a Romanian writer who also wrote “The Forrest of the Hanged”, a novel based on the real struggles and psychological issues from the World War One period in Romania. Following in his footsteps is Ilderim Rebreanu, his nephew. He is also a writer and he has given those who were curious great insight into the life of the Rebreanu family.

Ilderim Rebreanu was born in 1952, during the communist period, “a few months before daddy Stalin cracked”, as he would like to put it. The 67-year-old writer found the passion for writing after returning from the army and felt that he had discovered a spec of talent called drawer writing. These drawer writings were anticommunist. From that moment on, he has written over ten books: novels, novellas, essays and more, that depict the communist period with a critical eye. Some of his works include:

Photos from and personal archive.
  • “Specters in the labyrinth of oblivion”
  • “Poor but tender… and smug”
  • “Letters in the shadow of the noose”
  • “Born in the zodiacal sign of death”
  • “The Rebreanu family towards Liviu”
  • “The Realm of the Devil”
  • “Letters in the shadow of the noose”
  • “Born in the zodiacal sign of death”

He has written a lot of books which have deep understanding of the hardships during the communist regime time and many psychological problems of people. Now, he has decided to write his last book entitled “A night with women”. He has had a very rough history due to the communist period in Romania, described by him as a “Horrible, morally degrading period.” He believes that he got some parts of his writing talent from his uncle, and now, he is ending the Rebreanu writing tradition forever.

“A night with women” is a book which was intended to be a novella but the author had the inspiration for a novel. The four hundred pages long book is a fictionalized memories novel. The author also mentioned that the action of the novel takes place in 1989, when a man isolates himself from society in a cabin:“Filled with loneliness and anguish he is fighting the communist system, which is about to squash him physically.”


As Nicolae Ceaușescu was ruling Romania, Romania was known as the Socialist Republic of Romania. The communist period made a considerable impact on many people, including Ilderim. Before he was born, Ilderim’s parents were imprisoned in a political prison for trying to secretly cross the border. Because his father didn’t want to obey the new regime, he couldn’t obtain a normal job and with the fall of the king (Mihai) he realised that it was pointless to stay in the country. His parents made plans to cross the border illegally in Yugoslavia, and from there they wanted to go to France. They went to Timișoara and they were arrested from their beds. It wasn’t a blatant crime, but the communists were suspicious about their going to Timișoara. There was a trial and they were sentenced to imprisonment.

He was 13 when “the Ceaușist period began, the so-called Golden Age.” His childhood was not easy, but not all bad. Things got worse after the 70s’. Got worse regarding food, no heat in apartments and soon. It wasn’t good before that either: “It was cold and it was frightening. Of course, fear was always there, ever since the communists came in 45′, 46′. You weren’t allowed to talk ill of them and if you did you ended up in prison, or in the sewer or God knows where. “Travelling was out of the question.” There were some people with googly blue eyes who had the right to travel abroad, but mostly in Eastern countries.

Ilderim was in the army because he was considered “a small enemy of the party”. There were some regiments which were sent on construction sites for mandatory work. “I fooled them that time as well because they sent me where they wouldn’t have wanted to send me. My mothers’ brother was at the thermo electric power station, where I was chief rate-setter. Shortly after the one month instruction period he took me in his office. I didn’t dig, I didn’t carry metal, I just held the pen in my hand.”

If Liviu Rebreanu had lived any longer, he would have been imprisoned.

Ion Antonescu was a Romanian military general, chief of the Operations Office of the Grand Army Headquarters in the First World War. The Iron Guard or the legionnaires were anti-communist, anti-ziganist, anti-capitalist and sustained nationalist-fascism, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, being rather harsh on the others. After Antonescu came to power in 1940, the legionnaire organisation was destroyed. Ilderims’ uncle Liviu couldn’t have his books published from 1945, after the communists took the reins up until 1956. “Luckily he died in time because otherwise he would have ended up in prison at Gherla or at Sighetu Marmației because he did some politics. These politics were not exactly pro-antonescian, because he didn’t really obey to the legionnaires or to the antonescians. But he had a western culture due to the fact that he attended the military academy in Budapest.”


Some might wonder how Liviu Rebreanu wrote “The Forest of the Hanged”. According to Ilderim, Liviu’s pillar was the hanging of Emil Rebreanu, his brother. Liviu found out about his hanging only approximately one year later because, in the time of war, communication was not possible. For the title, Liviu’s inspiration was a photo in the press in which three hundred cadets were hanged. Liviu never described the hanging scene in his book, but Ilderim did in his book “Specters in the labyrinth of oblivion”. Although Ilderim had the narrative reports of some eye-witnesses (soldiers) which were there when the unfortunate event happened, the description of the hanging is from his imagination.

Romanians know very little about Ilderim Rebreanu because, as stated by him in an interview with Tango magazine“in the communist period, the entire Rebreanu family was hidden from the world. His father, Tiberiu Rebreanu “wasn’t allowed to publish any books, just articles and studies”. Ilderim’s last book “A night with women” has a lot to teach about the communist regime and the psychological or inner problems of the man in relation to society. The last descendant of the Rebreanu family has written his last book which still talks about the anguish of the communist period, proving that those times were not, are not and will not be easily forgotten. Now, he is living out a nice, quiet life in Bogdana, Teleorman County where he is surrounded by one of the things he loves the most: nature.