His most celebrated novel, A House for Mr Biswas, took over three years to write and was published a decade later.
Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul - Vidia to those who knew him - was born on 17 August 1932 in Trinidad, a descendant of impoverished Indians shipped to the West Indies as bonded labourers.
He stirred controversy in the past, describing post-colonial countries as "half-made societies" and arguing that Islam both enslaved and attempted to wipe out other cultures. He went on to write dozens of books, many dealing with colonialism and its legacy, including House for Mr Biswas, Mimic Men, Miguel Street, Mystic Masseur and A Bend in the River.
In Pic: V S Naipaul (2nd L) looks over his Nobel prize for literature with Medicine victor Sir Paul Nurse (L) and Economics winners George Akerlof and A. Michael Spence (R) at Stockholm's Konserthuset, after receiving it from Sweden's King Carl Gustaf on December 10, 2001.
During his early career Naipaul was dogged by money worries and loneliness.
The admission "consumed her".
"It could be said that I had killed her", he told biographer Patrick French.
The objects of Naipaul's ire ranged from corruption in Indian politics to the West's cynical treatment of its former colonies to the cult of personality in "The Return of Eva Peron".
Sir Vidia was outspoken and is known for criticisms of Tony Blair - who he described as a "pirate" - as well as Charles Dickens and EM Forster.
CLR James, a fellow Trinidadian writer, put it differently: Naipaul's views, he wrote, simply reflected "what the whites want to say but dare not". "I think (it is) unequal to me", he told the London Evening Standard newspaper in 2011. He called India a "slave society", quipped that Africa has no future, and explained that Indian women wear a coloured dot on their foreheads to say "my head is empty".
He also notoriously fell out with author Paul Theroux, whom he had mentored, but the pair later reunited and resolved their differences. They later resolved their differences.