River Nancahuazu, Bolivia. A modest envoy sent by Ernesto «Che» Guevara set up camp to forge a foco insurgency. Cuban victory had been secured, whilst the Congo rebellion was unsuccessful. Now Che is seeking to topple the next imperialist stronghold in the American political landscape, in Bolivia.
The group appointed by Guevara is comprised, amongst others, of Régis Debray and Ciro Bustos. Debray is a young French Marxist philosopher with something of an academic reputation. Bustos is an un-renowned Argentine painter who joined Che’s army in Cuba with the intention of starting his own revolution in his country, together with his compatriot.
On April 20, 1967, less than one year after the camps establishment, Debray and Bustos are captured by the Bolivian army. The philosopher is soon snapped up by the press as a symbol of the engaged intellectual. The little-known painter raises suspicion, especially after what would happen afterwards.
History is inquiryii, it is research. For Herodotus that was the meaning of the word. We can see it right at the beginning of his History, when he notes:
This is the display of the inquiry (ἱστορίης) of Herodotus of Halicarnassus, so that things done by man not be forgotten in time, and that great and marvelous deeds, some displayed by the Hellenes, some by the barbarians, not lose their glory, including among others what was the cause of their waging war on each other (Hdt.1.1)iii.
Therefore ἱστορίης consists of identifying and expressing what might be forgotten (ἐξίτηλος), what might fade awayiv. History exposes what might be hidden with time, preventing the obfuscation of future events.
Furthermore, for Herodotus, as can be seen above, writing history is a distinctly individual process —«So far, all I have said is the record of my own autopsy and judgment and inquiry (ἱστορίη)», he would later say (Hdt. 2.99). Nevertheless, that does not cancel out his impartiality. We must record history: displayed by the Hellenes or by the barbariansv.
This understanding of history as inquiry is a concept still largely preserved in the Plato. John Burnet translates it thusly in his famous version of Plato’s complete worksvi. However, for Aristotle the term had been devalued.
In the Stagirite, ἱστορία means a collection of anecdotes. In his Economy, for example, Aristotle says: «These anecdotes (ἱστορίαν) [which follow], seemed to us by no means lacking in utility» (Aristot., Econ. 2.1346a)vii. In other places the term is translated simply as «history», understood more like a sequential order of events or anecdotes preserved by tradition rather than a critical-scientific of investigation, of inquiry.
Of course this linguistic change is not without its consequences and means that Aristotle does not fully understand the work of a historian:
Indeed the writings of Herodotus could be put into verse and yet would still be a kind of history, whether written in metre or not. The real difference is this; that one tells what happened [history] and the other what might happen [poetry]. For this reason poetry is something more scientific and serious than history, because poetry tends to give general truths while history gives particular facts (Aristot. Poet. 1451b)viii.
In the strictest sense, Herodotus is an unreliable historian who uses references from vague sources, devoid of details. Nonetheless, going beyond the methodological short-comings (typical of that period), it is clear that his vision of history was profound. This vision deteriorated with time. For Aristotle, the word ἱστορία ―like in his Economics— means «anecdote». In other words, a story that is passed down by tradition: history viewed as a body of events to which to refer. Nevertheless in Herodotus, to record history did not mean to indiscriminately present a list of particular facts defining the «what happened», but rather to develop a retroactive process which reconstructs past events. In other words, a process of critically re-examining those definitions of «what might have happened» which are taken as general truths through a process of personal investigation. Paraphrasing the Stagirite, for this reason history is somewhat more scientific and serious than poetry, because history tends to re-establish general truths while poetry recreates particular facts. Aristotle had under-estimated the Halicarnassian historianix.
The Yuro Ravine, Bolivia. A few months after Debray and Bustos had been apprehended in Nancahuazu, Che is surrounded by the army. He fights to get away, but a bullet hits him in his left leg and he is captured shortly after. Locked up in a school house in the town of La Higuera, Che had time to contemplate his situation. How did they find him? Did someone betray him? Who revealed his whereabouts? Perhaps Ciro Bustos’ name passed through his mind. Perhaps it didn’t.
It was on the evening of October 9, 1967, when Sergeant Terán visited Che with a fire arm in his hand. His death was announced shortly afterwards and the body exhibited to the public. Che’s body lay face up, his already clouded eyes still open in front of the cameras, the crowds of supporters and the plain curious. Che’s dead gaze would later be described by a reporter as one with «a very pale ghastly ghostly yellow color», a gaze that seemed as though it were still watching Sargent Terán grip his weapon.
Or perhaps Che refused to go without seeing the American Revolution triumph. His was a look of obstinacy. A spectral gaze: insistent.
Written history battles with itself. On the one hand, devoid of investigation, history accumulates anecdotes and arranges them in sequential order. In a word: it forms a tradition, a story which sacrifices possible narrative lines so as to present itself without any fissures, as if monolithic. On the other hand, as a critical impetus, history reveals these previous sacrifices. It ensures they are not forgotten, it redeems them. History, in this case, is a rediscovery which defies the fossilized past, a betrayal of tradition.
Any historiographical endeavor is faced, to a greater or lesser extent, with this dialectic between tradition and treasonx: that is its condemnation and its greatness.
Malmo, Sweden. Ciro Bustos has been living in Nordic silence for decades, condemned by tradition as the Great Betrayer of Che. The proof? The sketches of Che and other guerrilla fighters which he drew for the authorities, together with his suspiciously long statements (though the contents have never been revealed). Historians and the press gave their verdict. Bustos was the great Judas of the American Revolution.
A pair of documentary-makers from Swedish television, Erik Gandini and Tarik Saleh, take interest in the matter and track him down. Could it be that the tradition is right? Is Ciro Bustos really Che’s betrayer?
Bustos decides to talk, finally breaking his silence to give his account of events. His words provoke an avalanche which threatens to undermine tradition. So Gandini and Saleh begin to investigate, to uncover the silenced voices. Che’s story seems to reconstruct itself before their very eyes.
The best documentary films always contains at least some history, in the old sense of the word. They inquire. They question the mausoleum. They provoke tradition, and direct our gaze towards that which is fading, about to be forgotten, and actualize it in a new sequence of events.
Sacrifice: Who betrayed Che Guevara? (Sweden, 2001) has exactly this intention. Its purpose is not to repeat tradition, but to refute it, to betray it.
It is said that Ciro Bustos was the one who betrayed Che, «but in reality ―as the voice-over affirms― the story went a little differently». The two reporters, Gandini and Saleh, wanted to investigate the premises that tradition has distorted over time and, in doing so, they appeared to have come across a possibility which up till now went unnoticed: Ciro Bustos was the scape goat for Che’s death. This is not only indicated by Bustos’ own testimony, after decades of silence, but by the pitfalls of historians who have condemned him all these years, the contributions of other historians who are more critical with regards to tradition, and the testimony of people involved in the process.
«History is never the history that is published», states Bustos. «The true story hides behind published history, it is left behind, and it is not known whether it will surface», he says with his back to the camera, hidden from view. «History is not as it is told. It is another one». Bustos is seeking redemption through a new inquiry which revives the past, another past, so that he should not be forgotten in the way that Herodotus was referring to.
Ciro Bustos’s critics maintain his betrayal of Che is confirmed by the sketches he drew for the Bolivian and North American authorities, but what the documentary asks is: what relevance could these drawings have had when everyone was already familiar with Che’s physical appearance?
Furthermore, we can see that the other sketches Ciro Bustos drew of supposed rebels were in-fact guerrilla fighters who were already in prison or apocryphal, created to mislead the authorities. Somebody called Rutman, for example, from Buenos Aires, whom Bustos invented so as to protect the real activists of Buenos Aires. «For them [the army and the CIA] it was an achievement to have me draw somebody non-existent», he says. «This non-existent Rutman saved the lives of a whole bunch of people».
With regard to the problem to be investigated, the documentary assumes that there is a past waiting to be discovered, a past which superseding all the others, can explain what «really happened in Bolivia more than 30 years ago». Sacrifice is a Penelope facing a supposed historiographical tradition: she unravels her sequential plot on the darkest of nights just so she can weave it anew after day-break, with a clear perspective and using the same unravelled threads.
If tradition has its foundation in myth, then in Sacrifice the fundamental myth begins to fall apart.
From its most Derridean perspective, Sacrifice is a wise traitor. First the voice of tradition ―nothing more than the off-screen voice, with no face to personify it― seems clear, free of self-contradictory questions. We hear the usual historians and their well-worn condemnations. Mainly the voice of Pierre Kalfon, a French historian and a friend of Debray who persists in naming Bustos as the traitor. We are only just beginning to investigate the matter in depth, so his words don’t strike us as particularly true or false. The introductory context in which we hear these voices is harmless for their discourse.
Later on, the documentary exhibits pieces of supposed evidence, one after another, which contradicts the voice we heard previously with a certain innocence. This is when, using a kind of mordant discursive strategy, the documentary repeats the words of the historians.
But, as we know, repetition sensu stricto is an impossibility. If something re-surfaces it always does so under a new context of significance, where its previous position has been shifted. This is why Derrida said that there are no fixed meanings, things can be repeated indefinitely without changing a jot, but their significance will always come back differed.
So then, the repeated words of the tradition —this time uttered by a human face— give the impression of fragility, and lose credibility. Kalfon assert that his position was based on the statements of Ciro Bustos, as recorded by Gustavo Sánchez. Then we hear Che’s biographer John Lee Anderson, roundly discredit Sanchez’s reliability, and in Bolivia, General Gary Prado maintains that the said record «contains various parts which are fabrications». Suddenly, the basis of tradition appear corroded. The Derridean collapse is inevitable.
Nietzsche, in the second of his Intempestive Considerationsxi, indicates that history is three fold: monumental, antiquarian and critical. Monumental history has an active function; it inspires men and impels them to perform great actions. Antiquarian history serves to conserve and venerate the past. Critical history seeks to vindicate the key figures and events which have been relegated to a footnote, and seek their redemption.
Commonly revolutionary movements try to represent themselves as monumental history, inspiring transformation. In order to achieve this, the revolutionary narrative tends to be constructed around sacrificial myth.
Borges had already exhibited this clearly in «Theme of the Traitor and the Hero»xii. The story is about an Irishman called Ryan who investigates the life of his great-grandfather, Fergus Kilpatrick, considered to be a hero of a certain nineteen-century Irish up-rising. Through his investigations, the protagonist discovers that his great-grandfather was in fact a traitor to the rebel cause, and on being discovered by his colleagues, Kilpatrick «begged that his punishment should not compromise the rebellion». His execution, therefore, is arranged to look like the act of an unknown assassin, as a reprisal for his revolutionary actions. The prearranged assassination is carried out in a theatre and incorporates legendary elements from the past (the death of Julius Caesar, certain lines from Macbeth). The most relevant thing: only after staging of this monumental sacrificial myth does the rebellion gain support and manages to triumph.
Sacrifice, on the other hand, offers another version of the myth. Here the monumental history presents Ciro Bustos as the Great Traitor of the Revolution. For this reason, what Gandini and Saleh uncover is not betrayal behind an act of sacrifice as is the case in Borges, but sacrificial myth itself which conceals the Bustos’s status as the stories scape goat.
Although echoed in other cultures (the Greek pharmakos, for example), the myth of the scape goat has its roots in the Hebrew world. The ancient people of Israel carried a ritual with two goats on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). One goat, chosen at random, was sacrificed to Yahwehxiii. The other goat, after symbolically taking on all the sins of the community was condemned, stoned and abandoned in the desert, handed over to the will of Azazel the demon.
The scape goat, therefore, illustrates the dual structure of the sacrificial myth: on the one hand the sacred sphere of Yahweh, on the other, the malevolent sphere of Azazel. In the language of Borges, the sacrificial myth implies the role of the traitor and also of the hero.
In the Borges story, Fergus Kilpatrick combines both functions. He is, in a manner of speaking, simultaneously delivered up to Jehovah and to Azazel. On an unseen level, Kilpatrick is the traitor who becomes the scape goat. But in the eyes of the public, he is the sacrificed hero, martyr to the cause of the Irish uprising.
In contrast, Sacrifice reveals a two-fold version of the myth, closer to the original ancient Hebrew ritual. Ciro Bustos takes the place of the scape goat, condemned to Azazel’s doomed world. His role as the traitor redeems Debray ―if indeed we pay heed to the documentary’s insistent suggestion to regard the philosopher as the real betrayer of Che―, as it does various other revolutionaries whom Bustos sheltered with his silence or red herrings.
The role of hero in the myth is represented by Che, especially after his death by betrayal. Notice, for example, that on seeing the corpse on display one reporter says that Che, through his death «entered into the realm of mystified perception». He is the chosen goat, or the initiated hero who after being sacrificed enters into the sacred kingdom, the mystic sphere. The role of Bustos as the scape goat allowed, structurally speaking, for this mythical incarnation of Che as a quasi-divine hero who is betrayed and offered up to the sacred world of Yahweh.
Sacrifice and «Theme of the Traitor and the Hero» are two facets of the deep-rooted relationship between sacrifice myth and revolutionary historiography.
The sacrifice myth can only be debunked after a shift in the historical paradigm takes place: a change of espisteme, as Foucault would have it. The historiographical tradition surrounding Che changed from originally being a source of active inspiration, revolutionary in its nature, to a kind of legend to be commemorated. It was this transition which gave rise to a documentary such as Sacrifice coming about.
To put it into Nietzschean terms: Gandini and Saleh, as well as Ryan (in the Borges story), had to wait for the revolution’s monumental history to become antiquarian so that the critical redemption of the past could be brought to fruition.
This change of episteme is represented in Sacrifice as a step away from revolutionary modernity toward the post-modern. If the modern revolution considered itself monumental, the post-modern phase views history at a mid-point between antiquarian and critical. On the one hand, Sacrifice demonstrates its critical ability in its defiance of modern historiographical tradition, the monumental. In this context, the monumental perspective only occurs in representations of reality to be debunked or a myth to be exposed.
On the other hand the historical perspective in the documentary is shown to be antiquarian when it takes the past (like in the form of found footage) and it turns it into something aesthetic using various techniques, characteristic of the post-modern period. For example: the formalistic use of a visual remix which time and again shows the vigilante soldiers marching through the streets (in an almost Sisyphean loopxiv). Also the mantric repetition of Che’s voice saying «Revolutionaries are not normal people» backed by a sound-track of hip-hop and electronic music. Or the connections with contemporary urban art, like the stencilled image of Che on a wall in Swedenxv.
In the same way, this antiquarian vision is expressed in the melancholic tone Bustos uses to recount his anecdotes. «All this talk about the world of communications, I don’t know… It’s a world of nothing but words», he says, «where one never knows whether things are or are not true, but they are said». Conversely, for Bustos, the iconic image of Che’s face «it is not the word, but concrete facts, reality».
Bustos insists in distinguishing between words and things, the world of language and the world of «concrete facts». Images are language; nonetheless this distinction does not apply in the case of Che: his image is in itself «praxis», it is a concrete fact. This exception shows the antiquarian veneration it has of history, specifically of the revolutionary past. Thus, if we understand post-modernism as nostalgic modernism (after all, this is also one of its aspects), Bustos appears post-modern to us, antiquarian, defeated in a new context, in a new relationship between language and things.
From Foucault’s perspective, the problem with History is, in short, the problem of Truth. If history breaks away from an objective position, it considers its discourse as «suprahistorical». Its truth defines a beginning and an end, and a series of events in between supported by the logic of cause and effect. With no escape route, no way out: an absolutist history, a modern history.
In contrast, history seen from the genealogicalxvi perspective unearths the conditions which allowed for one truth to be established as such: the relationships of power behind the «objective» knowledge of tradition.
If it is so that Sacrifice manages to redeem Ciro Bustos, it is largely attributable to his genealogical approach. By betraying tradition and debunking the sacrificial myth, Sacrifice distances itself from the telos of historiography, leaving the field open to the virtual past, both denied and defeated. In this gesture of exoneration, other historical agents in the story also emerge redeemed, like Camba, a revolucionary who fought in Bolivia. Camba is primarily known for the distrust with which Che regarded him (according to his diaries). Nonetheless, an ex CIA agent recounts in the documentary that Camba «was not very co-operative» in the interrogation that followed his capture, offering a completely different impression of Camba than the one Guevara had of himxvii.
Even so, the relationship that Sacrifice has with the concept of truth is not entirely genealogical. From the very beginning of the documentary it is stated that «no one really knows the truth» and then immediately afterwards it proposes «to discover what truly happened in Bolivia more than 30 years ago». In the same sense, Bustos, as we said above, mentions that «the real story got left behind». Genealogy, it is worth clarifying, does not confront the «official truth» with an alternative «hidden truth». A discourse is genealogical only when it explores the epistemological conditions which made any kind of truth possible, but ceases to be so when it insists in imposing an alternate version of «what really happened», as a substitute for the dismantled truth.
In effect, the genealogy does not just look at a mythical past, devoid of an absolutist continuum, but also acknowledges where it is looking at it from. It accepts that any view is a form of choosing sides; that its perspective is not timeless but is restricted by its own historical conditions, its interests and passions. Its view is so far from the supposedly «suprahistorical» order as the phenomenon that it is observing and interpreting. The genealogical perspective takes this reality on board; it does not hide it behind a presumed «objective» truth.
«Historians —Foucault observes— try as far as they can to erase what can betray, in their understanding, the place from which they look, the moment where they are, the side they take»xviii. Sacrifice, on more than one occasion, appears to perform that erasure.
The version of the sacrificial myth in «Theme of the Traitor and the Hero» flirts with the ancient mystical/metaphysical concept of the coincidentia oppositorum: the greatest of traitors is the greatest of heroes (and vice versa), more through its implicit irony almost than through its philosophical sense. Let us recall that Borges is above all our most sophisticated, almost cryptic humorist. In contrast, Sacrifice departs from the Hebrew version of the myth, namely, a moral/Manichean version, between Jehovah and Azazael, damned goat and sacred goat, traitor and hero.
To sum up the possibilities and the limitations of Sacrifice, perhaps it is worth revisiting another of Borges’ tales: «Three Versions of Judas». In this story Borges creates a Swedish character, Nils Runeberg, who is skilled in exegesis. Nils sees Judas as Jesus’s opposite reflection and an indispensable counterpoint in «the economy of redemption»xix. Then, after receiving criticism, Nils modifies his position and portrays Judas as a spiritual ascetic who humbly rejects the Kingdom of God by way of his betrayal. Finally Runenberg understands: if sin is inherent in Man, God ought to embody the most infamous of men in order to redeem humanity; ergo, Judas is God incarnate. Runenberg knows that an «infinite punishment» awaits him for having «discovered and divulged the awful name of God». In his penultimate line, Borges describes his situation: «Intoxicated with insomnia and with vertiginous dialectic, Nils Runeberg wandered through the streets of Malmo, praying aloud that he be given the grace to share Hell with the redeemer».xx
Thus it is that the final epiphany of Ryan in «Theme of the Traitor and the Hero» and Runenberg’s final epiphany in «Three Versions of Judas» both coincide in opposing their coincidentia oppositorum. On the one hand, the hero according to the national tradition is in reality a traitor to the revolution. On the other hand, the traitor according to the religious tradition is in fact God incarnate. Fergus Kilpatrick and the last Judas are inverse variations on the same sacrificial myth.
In contrast, Sacrifice departs from another sacrificial myth. It could be said that Gandini and Saleh treat Ciro Bustos just like Runenberg treats Judas, but in reverse. First they state that the traitor, according to the traditional historiography, is in fact a hero whose silence saved the lives of several revolutionary comrades. Then that this hero renounced recognition for his revolutionary role by exiling himself to Sweden and, to paraphrase Borges, wandered through the streets of Malmo, praying aloud that he should be given the grace to share Hell with the redeeming documentary makers. In the end, the documentary implicitly expresses its final epiphany: the role of Ciro Bustos as a traitor was an indispensable counterpoint to the «economy of redemption», to quote Borges, which consolidated Che Guevara as a betrayed hero and Regis Debray as an engaged intellectual. There is no goat for Yahweh without one for Azazael. Ciro Bustos and the first version of Judas are parallel variants of the same sacrificial myth.
Gandini and Saleh are of the opinion that this myth has done Ciro Bustos an injustice. Nevertheless, Sacrifice doesn’t construct a structurally different argument. It doesn’t abandon the moral/Manichean vision, it just re-arranges it. It redistributes blame: Bustos is exonerated, Debray is condemned.
Going by the arguments the documentary makes, this judgement appears to be fairly accurate. The information they discover after critical investigation does show inconsistencies in the historiographical tradition that depicts Bustos as the traitor. But, in its insistent eagerness to switch the roles historically attributed to the characters, the documentary ends up restoring the structure of the same myth it set out to refute: Bustos, the hero, martyred by history; Debray, traitor and fraud. Bless and condemn: from canon to anathema.
Bustos’s voice, as we said already, tells us at the beginning that the truth is always hidden, that history is always another. Just after hearing this, the camera pans into a close-up of his face, insinuating that the one who knows this «another» history, the one in possession of this hidden truth, is none other than Bustos.
Sacrifice shows the inconsistencies of a dominant truth in a certain historiographical tradition, as has already been mentioned. It exposes Debray, for example, over a letter which he presumably wrote to his lawyer, in which he expresses his annoyance at him before dismissing him, for having talked about Che publicly when the Frenchman had agreed with the army not to do so (the lawyer published the letter a year after receiving it, but allegedly the media paid no attention). However, when it constructs a new truth, as a result of their investigation, this is no more robust than the previous. It tells us, for example, not without reason: «We cannot trust the written texts to find the truth, not even in the writing of Che Guevara». So why then should we trust the letter which they present to us evidence?
Aside from that, the interview with Debray near the end is not very consistent, even improvised in spite of the importance this scene represents. His words, shown only in the closing moments of the documentary, assume an insistently skeptical quality, as though discredited a priori. To be sure Debray shows himself reluctant to talk about Bolivia and ignored invitations to be interviewed after the so called «discovery» of the letter. But, being as his posture is so relevant to the documentary, why was it not dealt with as before, in a public place, in a presentation…?
Sacrifice has more value for its mythical view of history than for the quality of the investigation. Its methodological approach is, to say the least, questionable. Its position with regard to the historical climate, suggestive.
Alfredo González Reynoso
Translation to English: Leopoldo Tobías Brown
iii Translation by A. D. Godley, in Herodotus, The histories, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1920. Our emphasis.
iv ἐξίτηλος: «going out, losing color, fading, evanescent» (Liddell-Scott, op. cit.).
v This impartiality, that distances itself from the Hellenic ethnocentrism of its era, has also been interpreted by some as «philobarbarian», as analyzed by José Javier Benítez Prudencio in his article «Nominadores bárbaros y el nombre de los dioses», en Ilu, Revista de Ciencias de las Religiones, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Vol. 12, 2007, pp. 29-53, [on-line] http://revistas.ucm.es/index.php/ILUR/article/view/ILUR0707110029A/26071.
vi Plato, Platonis Opera, Oxford University Press, 1903.
vii Translated by Armstrong, in Aristotle, Aristotle in 23 Volumes, Vol. 18, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1932-1935.
viii Translated by W. H. Fyfe. Cf. Aristotle, op. cit., Vol. 23. Our emphasis.
ix By the way, Halicarnassus produced two conceptually opposed symbols: Herodotus and Mausolus (the satrap of Caria). If the first practiced history as inquiry, as living, changing preterit, the second symbolized it after his death as mausoleum, as petrified, canonic past. Halicarnassus was the cradle of two antagonistic, dialectical views of time.
x It is worth noting that tradition and treason [traición, in Spanish] share the same etymology: traditĭo, -ōnis, «to deliver, to transmit». On one hand, history as «news of an ancient fact transmited from generation to generation». On the other hand, history as «foul that is done by breaking the fidelity or loyalty that has to be kept and must have» (Diccionario de la Real Academia Española, our emphasis).
xi Published as Sobre la utilidad y los perjuicios de la historia para la vida, Edaf, Spain, 2004.
xii Story included in his Ficciones, Alianza, Spain, 1997.
xiii Remember the etymological meaning of sacrifice: «become sacred».
xiv This demarcation of the old monumental historiography is shown even when at the end of the movie they ask to the Sweden graffiti guy that made a Che stencil on a wall at the beginning that why he did not add the star on the Che’s beret and he responded: «I don’t really know, probably to avoid being associated to communism». That is the Che of Sacrificio: a Che without communism. Not a depoliticized Che but a Che that is untied from his monumental revolutionary aspect.
xvCf. Michel Foucault,«Nietzsche, la genealogía, la historia», Microfísica del poder, La Piqueta, Madrid, 1979, pp. 7-29.
xvi Nevertheless, in front of this revelation, Sacrificio also shows its concealments. For example, when they ask to Arne Sjögren, friend of Camba, what he told to Che, he just decides to say: «Can you turn off the camera?» His answer, whatever it might be, was kept in the historiographic oblivion. Sacrificio just limits itself to register that this oblivion, with its possible past, happened sometime.
xviiIbidem, p. 22.
xviii In Ficciones (op. cit.).
xix As an argument in favor, Runeberg says that identifying Jesus with a kiss was completely unnecessary if you have into account that Jesus was a widely-known public figure (therefore, Judas’ treason is explained because «it was necessary that a man, in representation of all man, did a condign sacrifice»). Runeberg’s argument coincides, by the way, with the one that Ciro Bustos uses to refuse that he betrayed Che when he did sketches of his face (well-known to all) for the autorities.
xx This third «version» of Judas is deeply linked to the one from the other Borgean tale «The Sect of the Thirty» (included in El libro de arena, Alianza, Spain, 1998). In this tale, an anonymous author of the fourth century A.D. describes in a manuscript a Christian sect that considered that everyone who participated in the crucifixion of Jesus did it involuntarily, following the divine plan as automatons, except two that participated voluntarily: Jesus, as God incarnated, and Judas, that hang himself after having renounced to the thirty coins he received as payment for his treason. «The Sect revere them both in equal terms and absolves the other ones», concludes the manuscript. Both tales, by the way, deserve a reading that considers Borges’ ironical sense. Under his apparent mystical perspective, both «Three Versions of Judas» and «The Sect of the Thirty» suggest that exegesis has the structure of fiction; the mystical position is a narrative position. Therefore, more because of the literary potencial than because of a Nietzschean aversion, Borges agrees here with Nietzsche: God is a grammar implication.