NO need to tell readers of this newspaper that last week marked the 100th anniversary of the death of Marcel Proust.

Doubtless many of you have read and reread the seven volumes of Remembrance of Things Past (probably in French), whose first translator was the dauntless CK Scott Moncrieff, who hailed from near Stirling. Although it is now better known by its more recent English title, In Search of Lost Time, it was also in 1922 that the first volume, Swann’s Way, was published in this country.

One hundred years on, controversy rages in France – and elsewhere – as to the importance of A La Recherche du Temps Perdu. Some say it is indigestible, pretentious, and that people only claim to have read it in order to demonstrate their superior intellectual credentials. Others not only find the style and tone mesmerising, but recognise that it represents a turning point for modern literature, in which the significance – and subjectivity – of memory is key.

Partly because of Proust, I’ve been reflecting on 1922. As the present year draws to its close, everybody knows that it will be long remembered for its turbulence. Foremost is the war in Ukraine: the horrors and misery this has inflicted on the people of Ukraine, but also the danger it potentially poses for the wider world should things escalate. Meanwhile, when our domestic history is written, 2022 will also go down as memorable, and not in a good way. Despite welcome recovery from the worst of the pandemic, there have been more lows than highs.

We’ve witnessed unprecedented chaos at Westminster. We face the worst inflation rates in more than 40 years, and realise that the economic repercussions of Putin’s war, and of Brexit and Covid, have created an alarmingly volatile situation. The arrival of tens of thousands of refugees seeking asylum is now overtaking the cost of living crisis for headlines. And then there’s climate change, and the recognition, at the recent COP27 summit, that we are increasingly at risk of breaching the 1.5 degrees tipping point.

When I was a child, the early 1920s felt immeasurably distant. Anything that happened before my parents were born was a definition of medieval. And in many ways that period really was another country. The UK was still reeling after the First World War. Horses were more common on the roads than cars. Only the well-off had an indoor toilet or hot running water. A single open fire was all most families had, to keep them warm.

Religious belief and fear of social disorder was strong, as seen when Wick joined the prohibition movement. In May, 1922, the town went “dry”, a status that lasted for a quarter of a century. Only a handful of other towns did the same, among them Kirkintilloch, Lerwick and Kilsyth; but Kilmacolm outdid them all in its sobriety, not tolerating a pub until 1998.

Living conditions are one of the biggest points of difference between those days and our own, despite rising poverty. Likewise access to education, and the recognition of women’s rights. Interestingly, it was during the General Election of 1922 that a woman in Scotland first stood as candidate for a party. She was Helen Fraser, a suffragette, whose sister was even feistier, spending time in Holloway prison for her activities. Fraser recalled her father summoning her downstairs one morning, where he sat aghast at the Glasgow Herald’s centre-page headline: "Glasgow Councillor’s daughter arrested". “Did you know about this?” he asked.

So much of what took place a century ago has faded from memory. Yet it is astonishing how many of its events reverberate into our own times. After the General Election, in which the Conservatives enjoyed a landslide, a dining club was founded. It soon morphed into the 1922 Committee, which seems to play an ever-greater role in our political firmament. More upliftingly, it was the year when a Scottish doctor, John Macleod, played a role in discovering insulin was the answer to diabetes, thereby saving countless lives, children’s especially.

In January of that year, Hitler took complete control of the Nazi Party. In October, Mussolini and his men marched on Rome and took over the Italian government. In December, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was formed, incorporating Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. No need to point out the connections from that alliance with today. Nor that of the appointment in April of Josef Stalin as General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party, a leader in whose terrible image Putin appears to model himself.

On television the other night, a classic film, The Riddle of the Sands, was shown, starring Michael York and Jenny Agutter. Few now read Erskine Childers, whose bestselling thriller this was based on. He was a passionate supporter of a free Irish state, and tomorrow marks the centenary of his death when, during the Irish War of Independence, he was executed for gun-running.

Elsewhere, in the Valley of the Kings, and after years of fruitless searching, Howard Carter discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb, thereby inspiring a generation of Indiana Joneses. James Joyce published Ulysses, which sits with Proust’s masterpiece as a pinnacle of literary achievement. Equally significant, T S Eliot published The Waste Land. If the seeds of much of the 20th century’s impending troubles were already putting down roots, it was an undeniably golden year for literature. These two facts may not be unconnected.

Another obvious inheritance is the BBC, with its first crackly broadcast made on November 14. As national broadcaster, it is a thread that connects us down the decades; its role remains enormous, even now, when its authority appears to be waning.

Whether it was the astonishing success of the Beeb, or the lasting legacy of political and cultural developments, nobody in 1922 could have foreseen what these would lead to, nor guessed what would endure and what would be forever forgotten. The question for us, then, is which of this year’s events will still be making waves 100 years from now? Is it possible to predict, or should we leave it to future generations to pick their way through the archives, and hope they find our footprints there? Either way, we would do well to heed Proust, who believed “We are at times too ready to believe that the present is the only possible state of things”.

From November 21 to November 30 2022 the Herald is running a Black Friday subscription offer which provides full access to our unrivalled coverage of news that matters for just £1. To find out more visit:

Read more by Rosemary Goring: