Alexander Deineka, The shot-down ace, 1942
During the First World War my grandfather served as a fighter pilot in the Richthofen squadron. When I was a young boy, he told me, that many of his comrades took cocain and other drugs to sharpen their minds and to calm down their notorious fears. Still today, I sometimes envision the grand reveries of these pilots who envelopped their nerves with the white soft mat of anaesthesia and who, under the delusive shield of an artificial painlessness, infinitely alone with all the thousand images and thoughts surging out of ecstasy, drew their lonely circles high above the clouds. Maybe he fired his shots, if the encounter took place, with a sentiment of unconcern, as if this had to be done. Maybe, while he was lying in a steep curve and the wires were howling, a world of strange insights opened before him and he disposed of an endless time to finish his thoughts before he came in a position to fire again. Yes, and maybe the chain of his imaginations had just run back as the projectile hit him with that enigmatic necessity which marks the intersection of dream, sleep and awakening.
Christopher Nevinson, Banking at 4000 feet, c. 1918
Dark Moor, Vivaldi's Winter