Centime Centime - 18 days ago 5x
Python Question

Python overload primitives

I'm trying to overload some methods of the string builtin.
I know there is no really legitimate use-case for this, but the behavior still bugs me so I would like to get an explanation of what is happening here:

Using Python2, and the


>>> from forbiddenfruit import curse
>>> curse(str, '__repr__', lambda self:'bar')
>>> 'foo'
>>> 'foo'.__repr__()

As you can see, the
function as been successfully overloaded, but isn't actually called when when we ask for a representation. Why is that?

Then, how would you do to get the expected behaviour:

>>> 'foo'

There is no constraint about setting up a custom environment, if rebuilding python is what it takes, so be it, but I really don't know where to start, and I still hope there is a easier way :)


The first thing to note is that whatever forbiddenfruit is doing, it's not affecting repr at all. This isn't a special case for str, it just doesn't work like that:

import forbiddenfruit

class X:
    repr = None

#>>> '<X object at 0x7f907acf4c18>'

forbiddenfruit.curse(X, "__repr__", lambda self: "I am X")

#>>> '<X object at 0x7f907acf4c50>'

#>>> 'I am X'

X.__repr__ = X.__repr__

#>>> 'I am X'

I recently found a much simpler way of doing what forbiddenfruit does thanks to a post by HYRY:

import gc

underlying_dict = gc.get_referents(str.__dict__)[0]
underlying_dict["__repr__"] = lambda self: print("I am a str!")

#>>> I am a str!

#>>> "'hello'"

So we know, somewhat anticlimactically, that something else is going on.

Here's the source for builtin_repr:

builtin_repr(PyModuleDef *module, PyObject *obj)
/*[clinic end generated code: output=988980120f39e2fa input=a2bca0f38a5a924d]*/
    return PyObject_Repr(obj);

And for PyObject_Repr (sections elided):

PyObject *
PyObject_Repr(PyObject *v)
    PyObject *res;
    res = (*v->ob_type->tp_repr)(v);
    if (res == NULL)
        return NULL;

The important point is that instead of looking up in a dict, it looks up the "cached" tp_repr attribute.

Here's what happens when you set the attribute with something like TYPE.__repr__ = new_repr:

static int
type_setattro(PyTypeObject *type, PyObject *name, PyObject *value)
    if (!(type->tp_flags & Py_TPFLAGS_HEAPTYPE)) {
            "can't set attributes of built-in/extension type '%s'",
        return -1;
    if (PyObject_GenericSetAttr((PyObject *)type, name, value) < 0)
        return -1;
    return update_slot(type, name);

The first part is the thing preventing you from modifying built-in types. Then it sets the attribute generically (PyObject_GenericSetAttr) and, crucially, updates the slots.

If you're interested in how that works, it's available here. The crucial points are:

  • It's not an exported function and

  • It modifies the PyTypeObject instance itself

so replicating it would require hacking into the PyTypeObject type itself.

If you want to do so, probably the easiest thing to try would be (temporarily?) setting type->tp_flags & Py_TPFLAGS_HEAPTYPE on the str class. This would allow setting the attribute normally. Of course, there are no guarantees this won't crash your interpreter.

This is not what I want to do (especially not through ctypes) unless I really have to, so I offer you a shortcut.

You write:

Then, how would you do to get the expected behaviour:

>>> 'foo'

This is actually quite easy using sys.displayhook:

sys.displayhook is called on the result of evaluating an expression entered in an interactive Python session. The display of these values can be customized by assigning another one-argument function to sys.displayhook.

And here's an example:

import sys

old_displayhook = sys.displayhook
def displayhook(object):
    if type(object) is str:

sys.displayhook = displayhook

And then... (!)

#>>> 'bar'

#>>> 123

On the philosophical point of why repr would be cached as so, first consider:

1 + 1

It would be a pain if this had to look-up __add__ in a dictionary before calling, CPython is slow as it is, so CPython decided to cache lookups to standard dunder (double underscore) methods. __repr__ is one of those, even if it is less common to need the lookup optimized. This is still useful to keep formatting ('%s'%s) fast.