Australian readers consumed with great interest the fruits of the war books boom that began in Europe in the late 1920s. But it was not until the early 1930s that returned soldiers in Australia began to consider the war in memoir and fiction. This article examines the nature of Australian writing about the Great War during the 1930s and seeks to explain why the conflict produced little work of enduring interest or literary merit. It argues that literary representations of the war, which gave emphasis to its tragic and traumatic elements, were overwhelmed by those remembering a war that challenged but did not defeat its Australian participants. The article traces the reason for the triumph of what can be called middlebrow representations of the Great War to the nationalist boon delivered by the experience of war to a colonial settler society of uncertain status. In prosecuting this argument, the article challenges the transnational emphasis of contemporary scholarship about literary modernism and seeks to reassert the significance of the nation-state as a category of analysis.