Typed manuscripts of the opening chapters of the Nobel laureate's 'In a Free State' and 'Holiday', a novel by Stanley Middleton, were sent to 20 publishers and agents by a leading newspaper guised as written by aspiring authors but none "appeared to have recognised them as Booker prize winners from the 1970s that were lauded as British novel writing at its best."
Naipul's novel had won the Booker in 1971, while Middleton's was chosen for the prize in 1974.
Of the 21 replies from the publishers, all but one were rejections, The Sunday Times reported, seeking to draw attention to concerns that the "industry has become incapable of spotting genuine literary talent."
Only Barbara Levy, a London literary agent, expressed an interest, and that was only for Middleton's novel.
She was unimpressed by Naipaul's book. She wrote "We thought it was quite original. In the end though I'm afraid we just weren't quite enthusiastic enough to be able to offer to take things further."
The major literary agencies PFD, Blake Friedmann and Lucas Alexander Whitley all turned down V S Naipaul's book, which has received only a handful of replies.
Leading literary figures have expressed surprise that Naipaul, in particular, had not been talent spotted.
Doris Lessing, the author who was once rejected by her own publishers when she submitted a novel under a pseudonym, said: "I'm astounded as Naipaul is an absolutely, wonderful writer.
Andrew Motion, the poet laureate, who teaches creative writing said "It is surprising that the people who read it (Naipaul's book) didn't recognise it. He is certainly up there as one of our greatest living writers."
Naipaul, 73, who was knighted in 1989, said the "world had moved on" since he wrote the novel.
"To see that something is well written and appetizingly written takes a lot of talent and there is not a great deal of that around," he said.
"With all the other forms of entertainment today there are very few people around who would understand what a good paragraph is," said the writer who was awarded the Nobel prize for Literature in 2001.