The flight of the storks

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The flight of the storks (French original title Le vol des Cigognes) is a thriller by the French writer Jean-Christophe Grangé . The action takes place in Europe , Israel and Africa in the early 1990s , most recently in India . It was first published in 1994, in Germany in 1996. It deals with the journey of the protagonist Louis Antioche, who is initially supposed to investigate the absence of storks , instinctive migratory birds that return from Africa every summer. During his research, he comes across a cruel secret that also seems to affect Louis and his past.


Sweet Europe

The 32-year-old history student Louis Antioche is commissioned by the Swiss ornithologist and former civil engineer Max Böhm to clarify the whereabouts of numerous storks that normally return from Africa in spring. Antioche, who himself lost his parents 25 years ago in an uprising in the Central African Republic, was raised by the diplomatic couple Georges and Nelly Braesler, who in turn brought him into contact with Böhm. Boehm wants to speak to Antioche shortly before his departure, but is found dead in a stork's nest. The autopsy and Antioche's research into Böhm's private matters show that he had a strange heart, which was also provided with a small seal , the meaning of which is unknown. Böhm also had a considerable fortune. In addition, the protagonist discovers photos from the 1970s of Böhm and a previously unknown son as well as the gruesome photograph of a slaughterhouse for people. Antioche wants to break off the trip due to the death of his client, but is persuaded by the investigating policeman Dumaz to investigate the whereabouts of the storks and the obscure past of Böhm.

Sofia - under the sign of the Cold War

The first stop on his journey is Bratislava , where Antioche meets the ornithologist Grybinski, one of the contact persons who Böhm recruited before his death. Together they first visit some breeding sites without discovering storks. From Grybinski, who has been paid by Böhm for ten years to keep an eye out for the storks, Antioche learns that almost only double-ringed birds, i.e. those that were marked after birth and after treatment, have disappeared and that they are before a few months ago two dubious people had been interested in the storks. Grybinski describes them as big and a little fat, who work for an international humanitarian organization called Monde Unique (One World). During his research in Eastern Europe, Antioche receives information about Böhm that the Swiss police officer collects: according to this, Böhm was an enigmatic figure who spent many years of his life in Africa, sometimes with his wife and son. In addition to construction activities, he was a consultant for Jean-Bédel Bokassa . The wife died in 1976, the whereabouts of the father and son are uncertain for 15 months, after which there is no trace of the son. The heart transplant must have been performed in Africa. The origin of the fortune he bequeathed to the ominous organization Monde Unique after his death remains a mystery. Antioche traveled on to Sofia, where he met the French linguist Marcel Minaus, an expert on Roma, who was supposed to introduce him to the ornithologist Nikolitsch. Nikolitsch is murdered and found with a distant heart. Antioche learns again that the organization Monde Unique has carried out treatments in Bulgaria and, in addition to an outpatient clinic, also has an analysis station and a small operating room there. Some time after Nikolitsch's death, Monde Unique had to break up their tents in Bulgaria. Antioche recently met a crippled Roma, Milan Djuric, who was disfigured by a sadistic doctor in France. After a fatal encounter with an employee of Monde Unique, Antioche continues on his journey south.

The stork kibbutz

Antioche continues his journey to Israel, where he can clarify the storks' whereabouts in a kibbutz . Many specimens were shot because diamonds were smuggled into Europe from Central Africa in their rings, which explains Max Böhm's fortune. Antioche continues to Africa, the Israeli Sarah, whom he met in the kibbutz, to Europe to follow the trail of diamonds.

Jungle and an autumn in hell

In the forests of Africa Antioche comes across other cases where humans appear to have been attacked by animals, humans treated by Monde Unique . Louis discovers that all victims have had their hearts removed. In the further course, the suspicions about the aid organization and its founder, Pierre Doisneau, who selects people, surprises with the helicopter in the bush and removes the hearts. Antioche's research shows that Pierre Doisneau is none other than his father, who, after the life-threatening heart disease of his eldest son, is constantly on the lookout for the right replacement heart for him - and that Louis was originally supposed to be the donor, but his mother was not admitted and fled with him and he was therefore given to adoptive parents.

Calcutta - continuation and end

When the headquarters of Monde Unique are located, Antioche travels to Calcutta. In the vault of the headquarters, the slaughterhouse of the picture by Max Böhm, he finally faces his father and, with the help of Roma Milan Djuric, can kill him.


Christiaan Barnard , who performed the first heart transplant in Cape Town, South Africa, seems very vague to be knitted into the plot as a role model. The figure by Max Böhm is also very reminiscent of the Swiss "stork father" Max Blösch .


The novel served as a template for a film adaptation directed by Jan Kounen , which was broadcast as a two-part by Canal + in January 2013 . Harry Treadaway played the leading role . In addition, Perdita Weeks can be seen as Sarah, Rutger Hauer as Sonderman and Clemens Schick as Hervé Dumaz.


  • The flight of the storks. Thriller ("Le vol de cigognes"). Bastei-Lübbe 1997; Weltbild again, Augsburg 2002 ISBN 3-8289-0601-X Transl. Barbara Schaden
  • Le vol des cigognes . Librairie Générale Françaises, Paris 1996 ISBN 2-253-14007-4
  • The flight of the storks. Audio book. Lübbe Audio, Bergisch Gladbach 2007 ISBN 978-3-404-77191-2 (6 CDs, voice Joachim Kerzel ).


  1. ^ Damage in the translator database of the VdÜ , 2019